Over the course of the past year, and in my graduate work, I was asked if the lessons in Wings, Worms, and Wonder are aligned with the “Standards.” To this question I reply  a firm no. My choice to specifically not bring the “Standards” into things is one of philosophical and ethical roots.

Standards, or Lack Thereof

On one hand, this choice was easy for me because I am so strongly opposed to the imposed standards system, but on the other it was hard because I know that while I may disagree, it is a reality of life for many teachers.

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Standards are not a new topic and neither is opposition to them in both formal and non-formal educational settings. The Nature-Study advocates struggled with similar issues when integrating their programs into public schools and justifying why kids need to spend academic time outdoors instead of in rote memorization and it hasn’t stopped being an issue in both traditional and even progressive education environments. I won’t go into all the gory details as to why I disagree with the “Standards” (I have a thesis for that) and will instead  share a quote from the booklet Leader’s Nature Guide: How To Do Nature Before She Does You! that I think sums up my perspective well. Published in 1942 for Girl Scout leaders, it  is still very relevant for today’s adult.

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“Perhaps there is no ‘which’! Perhaps there should be a careful blending of the ‘so many’ and the ‘so much’. Failing to blend these two things with each individual’s ability causes us to get caught on that word ‘standards.’ As far as nature is concerned, it seems almost impossible to set down in black and white a recipe–so many things collected, so many things made, so many things read, so many places visited–that will guarantee the desired results. Neither can we measure fun, adventure, appreciation, and so on, in specific quantities. Nor is it possible to say just how much of the above would be just the right quantity for each individual.

…Then what are we going to do about standards? As far a nature is concerned, we can only say that judging whether or not a person has reached a certain point in the study of nature is a joint responsibility…Our whole educational system is so fraught with marks and grades, passing and finishing things, that most people become apprehensive if there is not a set of examination papers or a passing mark.  It seems as though these things would make nature study easier…but not for the one who is trying to learn something about nature. And it is the learner we are concerned about.

…No one who was interested in nature and people could have meant them [suggested projects, books, or courses of study] to be anything but a guide for those who needed help with suggestions. Once we take a list of suggested activities, a suggested project…and use it to squeeze out a standard the subject dies–and so do the people!”

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So I offer activities that I know will help teachers meet multiple standards, but I leave it to the teacher, who is far more knowledgeable than me, to apply them to the specific requirements and standards of their state or county. I am not saying that one day if someone offers to align the lessons with the new national standards, that I would turn them down. That could perhaps be a useful additional booklet to offer. I’m saying we can’t all do everything and create anything of quality, so I will continue to do what I love–help teachers and parents integrate nature into everyday life by creating activities and inspiring experiences, grounded in progressive education and research, that get children and adults connected to food, place, and the beauty and wonder of the natural world!

Seeds to Sprout:

Research on nature and academic achievement from the C&NN

Childhood development and nature access

Green schoolyard benefits

Washington Post article on the Common Core Standards

An Education.com article against standardized testing

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