Children often change a parent’s outlook. After observing the negative impact of a poorly fitting educational environment on her children, Karen Langdon began searching for alternatives.

Kids playing
After meeting Joan Franklin Smutny, Founder of Worlds of Wisdom and Wonder offered by The Center for Gifted in the Chicago area, at a gifted conference, she enrolled her daughters in this program in 1997.

The change in their emotional mood was dramatic; the experience reignited their love of learning and provided like-level social connections never experienced before. The life-altering impact convinced Karen that a similar program in Austin could benefit many children and families. Putting aside her original career plan to be a hospital psychologist, with Joan’s support and blessing, Karen and Tracey Vickery cofounded Summer Wonders in 1999, modeled after Worlds of Wisdom and Wonder. Karen continued to serve as the Executive Director of this program for seventeen years. Most recently, she founded Inquiring Minds, her latest endeavor, again modeled after Joan’s programs, which were in 27 different Chicago locations last year.

About Our Model

Founded in 1983, The Center for Gifted, now affiliated with the Midwest Torrance Center for Creativity, has served thousands of students in preschool through 12th grades in summer and winter programs throughout the Chicago area.

The Founder/Director, Joan Franklin Smutny, taught creative writing and gifted education to graduate students at National-Louis University for many years. She has written extensively about gifted and has been the published author, coauthor or editor of twenty-two books including Teaching Young Children in the Today’s Preschool and Primary Classrooms; Teaching Young Children in the Regular Classroom; Gifted Girls; The Young Gifted Child: Potential and Promise, An Anthology; Reclaiming the Lives of Gifted Girls and Women; Stand Up for Your Gifted Child; Designing and Developing Programs for Gifted Students; Discovering and Developing Talents in Spanish-speaking Students; The Lives of Great Women Leaders and You; and most recently the Torrance Journal for Applied Creativity.

In 1996, Joan was the recipient of the National Association for Gifted Children’s Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contribution to the field of gifted education. She has also served as Editor of several gifted journals including the IAGC Journal. Other awards have been bestowed for her books and expression of leadership in gifted education.

“What a splendid new program for summer activity, creativity and critical thinking is Inquiring Minds.  I have seen Karen Langdon work with bright, talented children and know readily the excellence of her offerings. As Director of Inquiring Minds, she will offer a program that expresses her knowledge and dedication to gifted.  As the Director for the Center for Gifted – Midwest Torrance Center for Creativity, I have had thousands of students throughout the Chicago area and know what summer programs can do to challenge, enthuse and expand the thinking of bright children. Karen’s all new summer program for students K-6th will enable talented, motivated children to say, “This is the best summer! I never knew I could think and know so much about original and fresh ideas and what to do with them.” Creativity is the highest form of mental functioning, said Paul Torrance, the father of creativity in the US.  Critical and creative thinking will undergird the framework of Karen’s exciting new program and enable children to progress more than ever before.  Inquiring Minds will be an exciting, inventive, and imaginative experience for all children, teachers, and their families.”Joan Franklin Smutny