Of course you can have your standards and creativity too, but that’s a poor reason to accept their flaws. In Beyond Science Standards, I tell stories of actual teaching in grades 4 and 10. These lessons align with the NGSS—but go well beyond. I also share experiences teaching graduate students in Beijing, leading a summer field geology course, anecdotes of museum educators working with students in Denmark, and piloting ambitious weather balloon activities with for middle schoolers in upstate New York.
What I find in the standards is a regrettable disconnect between “scientific practices” and “disciplinary core ideas,” a disconnect fostered for more than 150 years to characterize the sciences generically, for example, as steps of “the” scientific method (followed by scientific processes, inquiry skills, nature of science).
My classroom stories express the inseparable relationship between what scientists know and how they go about finding it out—in particular contexts, not in keeping with a generic construct of method, process, or practice. Current rhetoric and the NGSS’ online matrices divorce overarching “practices, themes” from subject-by-subject “core ideas.” It’s up to the schools and teachers to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Challenge a child to create a spectrum of colors from sunlight using a mirror and a bowl of water. Have them express their experience with watercolor painting. Share the paintings as a classroom gallery and you have a story of play, art, and community. Go ahead, read my book—especially the epigraph from Timothy Egan’s A Pilgrimage to Eternity: Arguments don’t change minds, stories do.” And examples make the story.