Wonder-full education and human flourishing: stimulating children’s learning, morality, and spirituality is a three-year research project on the importance of wonder in education. Educators want to do more than transmit information. They hope to inspire. They hope their students will flourish throughout their lives. But just how can education inspire? How can education help people to flourish? We address these questions both theoretically and empirically by examining the outcomes of an education aimed at eliciting a sense of wonder.

The capacity for wonder is one of humanity’s most important character strengths. It is a powerful stimulus of learning, connected with creativity and curiosity. Wonder can open our minds to the visible universe, and the mystery of what lies beyond the visible. Einstein once wrote that the experience of the mysterious “is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder (…) is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle”. But the importance of wonder could be broader still; there may be an intimate connection between wonder and various aspects of human flourishing. Wonder-full education (a term we gratefully adopt from Egan, Cant, and Judson (eds.) (2014). Wonder-full education: The centrality of wonder in teaching and learning across the curriculum. New York: Routledge) could promote human flourishing in three main ways: by stimulating learning, morality, and spirituality.

We intend to shed light on this through a combination of theoretical and empirical research. The empirical research involves the development of new instruments (the Wonder Chart and the Wonder-Full Education Questionnaire) to be used for research in Dutch primary schools. We investigate differences between children’s sense of wonder, we ask about the relations between different types of wonder and various aspects of human flourishing, and we investigate connections between wonder-full education, wonder, and human flourishing.

The immediate aims of the project are exploratory and descriptive, but its final aim is to contribute to more wonder-full education, and to education that promotes human flourishing.

This research project is funded by the John Templeton Foundation: https://www.templeton.org/.

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