Beyond Science Standards captures a vision of science education both whimsical and serious. Ranging across examples from elementary to university level classrooms and grounded in philosophy and history, the stories address dimensions beyond the realm of bureaucratic standards. Its thesis brings into question the premise of scientific unity and its representation in school as notions of method, process, nature, and practice. Schools, no less than the sciences, profit from playful exploration—of musical instruments in fourth grade physical science, for example, and hotel lobby decorative rock in a college geology course. Aesthetic expression permeates geologic interpretation and evolutionary insight—in depicting dentition, for instance, in the history of the horse family and linking this history to changing landscapes. Participating in collecting local, high altitude weather data enhances trust in climate science, especially when the observations benefit the local farming community. Allied with historical examples of the conduct of science, Beyond Science Standards offers the reader inspiring stories of science teaching, varying from place to place, time to time, discipline to discipline, and purpose to purpose.
Charles R. Ault, Jr. (“Kip”), professor emeritus, Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, coordinated the school’s Master of Arts in Teaching program for science teachers for more than two decades. Kip began his career teaching primary grades and middle school science in Connecticut and Colorado. Author of Do Elephants Have Knees? and Challenging Science Standards, his writing reflects an interest in paleontology and the value of subject diversity in the reform of school science.
Foreword by Jack Hassard
Introduction: The Cheshire Cat’s Grin
Part I: Paradigm Lost
Chapter One: Descartes’ Dream
Chapter Two: Complicated Truths
Chapter Three: Discipline Diversity
Chapter Four: Menacing Mudflats
Part II: Playful Exploration
Chapter Five: Wavy Elephants
Chapter Six: Binary Banjos
Chapter Seven: Harmful Haste
Chapter Eight: Serious Whimsy
Chapter Nine: Salted Alcohol
Chapter Ten: Squirrel Tales
Part III: Aesthetic Expression
Chapter Eleven: Skull sockets
Chapter Twelve: Crowned Molars
Chapter Thirteen: Hell’s Pig
Chapter Fourteen: Vivid Canyons
Chapter Fifteen: Fossil Imagery
Chapter Sixteen: Inspiring Invertebrates
Chapter Seventeen: Clawed Wings
Chapter Eighteen: Pesky Pillbugs
Chapter Nineteen: Flashy Plumage
Part IV: Conceptual Coherence
Chapter Twenty: Poetic Rocks
Chapter Twenty-one: Vast Moments
Chapter Twenty-two: Storied Geology
Part V: Community Purpose
Chapter Twenty-three: Simple Automata
Chapter Twenty-four: Egg Balloons
Chapter Twenty-five: Competing Forecasts
Chapter Twenty-six: Wicked Extinctions
Chapter Twenty-seven: Harvesting Oysters
Chapter Twenty-eight: Caring Communities
Conclusion: Paradigm’s Progress
A lifetime of science teaching culminates in this author’s rich collection of stories—filled with intrigue and insight. Reading this book will forever elevate one’s appreciation for science and to fully recognize its presence in every dimension of human experience.
Science Standards have their place, but the search for common “practices, core ideas, and crosscutting concepts” carries the liability of homogenizing scientific disciplines and losing their rich diversity. As a geophysical researcher, I studied the tectonic development of the Andes with practices and techniques that had little in common with those of a geneticist searching for mutations responsible for Parkinson’s disease. Through stories of scientific discoveries basic and profound in Beyond Science Standards, Kip Ault embraces the diversity of scientific disciplines and celebrates how science educators can guide their learners to sample that diversity while using the touchstones of “play, art, coherence, and community.
Beyond Science Standards gives you the feeling you are talking with the author in his class. In concise and clear language, Kip Ault explains how to “think like a geologist” even when the rocks you study are in a hotel lobby. Using stories, experiments, and observations, he makes explanations vivid and understandable.
As I read Beyond Science Standards, I found myself smiling, remembering my days as a middle school science teacher, trying to navigate the dual complexities of science and teaching, while trying to foster a classroom in which kids felt safe to explore, tinker, and feel joy at asking and answering questions. I realized that my enjoyment of the book came from, the stories of actual classrooms and real kids and their teachers’ genuine efforts to do good work. The stories nicely illustrate the joy, messiness, and wonderful reality of science classrooms. As a reader, you feel transported into these spaces, eagerly awaiting updates about the students and the science. Rarely are people, including researchers, given such a whole picture of daily classroom life. Rather than the atomized examinations of a single feature of classroom life, this book takes a panoramic perspective, inviting readers to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of classrooms. This book illustrates how classrooms can become special as the teachers and students enjoy working and learning together. If nothing else, know that I am now drifting off into nostalgic memories of John J. Pershing middle school in Houston, where I taught students who are now doctors, musicians, dancers, lawyers, and realtors. What we share—our classroom experiences—are nicely captured in this book.
It is easy to think of modern natural science as an experimental, laboratory-based and sometimes algorithmic undertaking. Beyond Science Standards tackles that perception head-on, engaging and prompting readers to engage in the rich diversity of scientific thinking and methodology across contexts and disciplines. Charles “Kip” Ault demonstrates convincingly how scientists use their imagination to engineer systematic methods of inquiry that respond to the questions they ask, rather than relying on a singular, algorithmic method. Not only does the book’s central thesis demonstrate how the natural sciences can be made inviting to a much broader spectrum of people, it also illustrates why a broader perspective on the natural sciences is necessary to address many of the wicked problems we face as a global community.
“Pesky Pillbugs” is a great chapter—I feasted on it before starting my work emails this morning. I love the juxtaposition of high-level thinking/rigor with whimsy. Kip Ault’s notion of “guiding imagery” is actually the main workhorse of our Embryology unit—we found that images capture the imaginations of our bilingual, emerging scientists.