About NuMinds: The First 10-Years
NuMinds Enrichment was created in 2013 by two rebellious public school teachers, Ben Koch and Justin Vawter. In the beginning, Ben and Justin were master teachers who brought a genuine love of learning to their classrooms. While their zeal and zest made them different, this forced them to operate as "rogue" teachers--those who toe the line between following orders and saving a sacred learning space for their students.
After experiencing first-hand what happens when curriculum is standardized and made to "fit every student," Ben and Justin solidified their human-centric vision and started their venture. NuMinds was their way of sharing real inspired learning with the world.
The experiment began with a curriculum model, Bamboo Curriculum, named after the strong yet flexible plant. "Given the right soil, bamboo will grow quickly...so it is with students. Start small, plant a seed, and garner their interests. Then, as they become engaged--provide increasing difficulty and complexity."
Some of NuMinds' first offerings were created in small-group settings. Memes and social experiments were used to teach grammar; indoor skydiving and mythology were used to teach math; Pokemon was used to teach properties of light and sound. Their unique approach to learning was well received, and Ben and Justin watched in awe as inspired students eagerly engaged with advanced content. "One of the earliest success stories I remember is when we used Icarus to teach terminal velocity. Second graders were working out the calculation for how fast Icarus would fall. Second graders! We were so intentional about scaffolding every step and making it relevant that the kids literally wanted to do algebra."
The curriculum model was refined and solidified during the first three years, paving the way for summer camps, after-school programs, and weekend events. With every dollar earned, NuMinds gave 10% away through scholarships, in-kind donations, hosting free programs, and supporting local causes.
2017-2020: Worldwide Growth
In 2017, the programs and philanthropy of NuMinds caught the eye of the non-profit Education Unbound, and a partnership was formed. Education Unbound focused on delivering programs to underserved populations, and NuMinds served as its operating branch. This partnership has allowed NuMinds to deliver enriched STEAM learning to traditionally underserved areas.
As the team grew, the catalog became more robust and defined, our partnerships became stronger, and NuMinds established operations in Waco, Austin, Washington D.C., Lebanon, Argentina, and more. This growth required systematizing while carefully maintaining our unique human-centric approach to learning.
2020 The Impact of Covid
Covid impacted so many lives and, in doing so, turned education upside down. As NuMinds halted in-person operations, we leveraged our international networks to give teachers, parents, and students free education content on YouTube, including a global cardboard challenge, on-the-hour programming, and STEAM lessons in Spanish and Arabic that used everyday household items.
Economic recovery was slow, and the areas most dear to NuMinds were hit the hardest. With no schools, no students, and a mass exodus of teachers caused by burnout, NuMinds operations could not be sustained.
2021-Present: From the Ashes
Sitting on a wealth of curriculum, operating procedures, and teacher training, the team decided in late 2020 to open up access to some of their most tightly-held intellectual property. "If we're not able to use this, it shouldn't just sit on a shelf." They shared seven years of content the best way they knew how--online.
The team began by serving teachers, who are at the center of our mission. We developed self-paced, online teacher training that included videotaped interviews, tours, and direct lessons with handouts. As an example, Zen in the Classroom begins with a tour of Thanksgiving Square in Dallas and then an interview with lead Inspirator Dorian Dayton before diving deep into the mindfulness content.
Next, we re-opened our connection with students by offering student programs online. Online-friendly lessons, videos, and handouts empowered teachers to deliver cardboard challenges, holiday events, and summer camps.
The final step was the sacred NuMinds Bamboo Curriculum. Giving teachers access to these rich, detailed curriculum units online involved constructing a teacher portal from the ground up. With lessons, handouts, links, videos, webinars, coaching, Q&A, monitored chats, and customer support, teachers can access and deliver real inspired learning with support and fidelity!
As in-person programs continue to return, NuMinds leverages the power of technology to share its unique approach to learning with the world. Through it all, our mission has stayed the same. We continue to give 10% of profits to support education in underserved areas. And we deliver a human-centric approach to learning, where teachers and students are provided autonomy, choice, and boundless support.
Here’s to the next 10 years, as we continue to create, write, share and empower the world to deliver real inspired learning!
With love, appreciation, and respect!
Ben Koch & Justin Vawter