It started with a problem close to home for entrepreneur and founder Chris Turner. Or, perhaps it would be better to say, a problem close to school.
Turner was looking for early learning options for his young children, but the schools he toured, which included some of the best local private and charter schools, felt outdated. Ultimately, schools lacked the “creativity and independence” he hoped to teach his own kids, and the flexible schedule he wanted for his family.
That’s when the founder started researching the education sector. He found that while EdTech funding has skyrocketed (with VC funding rising from $4 billion to almost $21 billion over the last five years), most startups were overlooking the importance of physical learning spaces. This, Turner reasoned, could be the answer to why the education system hasn’t changed much in two decades, despite the rise of EdTech.
His solution was to create a new type of learning environment. And at its first location in Decatur, Georgia, we saw a glimpse of how Moonrise is setting up an entirely new category within education.
Forget the lines of desks, whiteboards, and class bells. Those “traditional” items are replaced with oversized couches, workshops, and a flexible schedule designed to maximize that creativity and independence missing from other places of learning.
The space is designed intentionally for kids to explore their own interests at their own pace. Kids from ages 5-12 have access to a maker space, a curated library, and even a podcast studio.
Design is central to the entire space, as Turner said the focus is on comfort, beauty, and wellness.
Since opening its doors in late 2021, Moonrise has attracted both homeschooling parents and what Turner describes as “flexible tech parents” looking for supplemental learning options for their kids.
Unlike a childcare center or afterschool center, parents can drop off and pick up kids at a space that is designed intentionally for them.
Moonrise is open every day from 9am-9pm, including weekends and summers. Most kids come for a few hours in the afternoon to work on projects with their friends.
Perhaps the best model is to think of Moonrise as a new take on co-working. As a “co-learning” space, kids have a range of activities that are not segmented off by age or grade level. And Turner said the cost, currently at $250/month per kid, is lower and more accessible to a range of economic backgrounds.
The Team Behind Moonrise
Throughout the space are Guides, which Turner likes to think of as “personal trainers for the mind.”
“They are different than a teacher because they aren’t delivering a curriculum. But they are there to find a kid’s intrinsic interests, and motivate them to push past limits” added Turner. Current guides bring different backgrounds in acting, camp counseling, and ESL tutoring.
Moonrise is a different type of entrepreneurial venture for Turner, who previously founded Atlanta-based Tenrocket, a startup that built web and mobile applications for other startups in a 10-day timeframe.
Now he sees Moonrise as a new way to spark the entrepreneurial spirit in the next generation.
Moonrise is currently one location in Downtown Decatur, but plans for expansion are on the horizon. While most people see Moonrise as a “supplemental” option to traditional learning environments at the moment, he believes a focus on flexibility and creativity could be the model for transforming how we think about education overall.
“We’re preparing kids for a future of work that values creativity and independence over standardization and conformity.”