Teaching and Pokemon: Why the Margins are an Adventure

Okay, stay with me here.  Pokemon probably sounds like it has absolutely nothing to do with teaching.  If I thought differently I would probably say the same thing.

In the world of Pokemon, children around the age of 10-13 can choose to go on an adventure with a starter Pokemon given to them by a Pokemon Professor.  These kids step out into the world, no matter where they come from, and learn about anything and everything there is about Pokemon.  They learn through their own experiences and time out in the world.

Now let’s step into a traditional classroom.  What do you think of when you see the classroom?  Probably rows of desks filled with students of all shapes and sizes, a desk in front for the teacher, and a teacher teaching kids a boring lecture focused lesson while the kids take boring notes.  But this isn’t how it should always be.

We need students to be able to explore and learn things that they will see in their lives.  We need them to learn about all the unique and wild things that aren’t just talked about, but seen, much like a Pokemon adventure.

Let’s step out of the center of a classroom, and start wandering into the margins.  The margins are where the magic seems to happen in a group of students as they can experience the world around them in exciting ways.

What are the Margins?

The margins are a super important place where students can learn about the world around them by interacting with it, not just sitting in a classroom and being told about it.

Characteristics of the Margins:

  • Activities in the margins enriches the areas around or connected to them, as well as the individuals experiencing them
  • The margins are a polyculture, where variety is everywhere and everything is intermingling
  • It’s not always easy to tell how important the margins are to those interacting with them
  • The margins are often seen as useless, unimportant, or obsolete
  • They are not as stable and not as predictable of environments
  • Difference and diversity are unique and constant within the margins

These are places where there are endless possibilities, and every encounter and event there is unique and different.  The margins aren’t limited to just going outside to the woods, it’s going to all sorts of exciting places or even as simple as keeping fish in your classroom.  Going into the margins is like going on your own Pokemon adventure with your students.  You take them to a world that is new and exciting, and let them learn through experience and interaction.


We can interact with the margins in so many ways.  Some examples would be:

  • Taking the kids to see an eclipse
  • Having the students go to a nature center or a museum, or even better, taking them out to the woods
  • Having a class pet
  • Get your students involved in the lesson, and that doesn’t mean just taking notes
  • Link what is taught to your’s and your students’ personal experiences/interests
    • They’ll learn more if what you are teaching matters to them
    • To follow our theme of Pokemon: Students that love Pokemon would enjoy doing an activity on habitats and environments where their favorite Pokemon lives
  • Taking kids into a virtual lab which can show things to them that are only theoretically possible

While the margins and the center may seem distant from each other, they are in fact right next to one another.  This allows you to move in and out of the margins in a day, or even stay in the margins or the center the entire time.  It’s how you and your students shape the day and the lessons.

Teachable Moments vs. The Margins

Some of you may say that the margins is just another way to have a teachable moment.  I’d say that I would disagree.  While teachable moments are important and they do let kids learn about something in the world around them, it isn’t the same as going into the margins.  The margins let students interact more deeply with their own experience and leave a lasting impact on what they learn.  Teachable moments will give the students something important to learn, but it won’t have the same impact that the margins will have on them.

A teachable moment can become an experience within the margins, though.  You could have a teachable moment that you form into an adventure into the margins, which would get students more involved and learning through their own experiences.

The margins are a place of wonder and excitement, a place where everything is truly coming to life, a place of randomness and unpredictability, and a place where a student can go on their own Pokemon adventure.


  1. @all
    I’m so glad that everyone liked my analogy/parallel of teaching in the margins with Pokemon!
    Thank you! I really wanted to use an analogy that would stick for people, especially kids. I also wanted to grab everyone’s interest with a concept that may sound strange, but works so well. It really solidified the idea of making the trips to the margin an adventure that students would love. A good example that would show turning a teachable moment into a trip to the margins would be seeing a strange looking insect and then using that idea to have the students go out for a bug collection. You could tie this into a lesson on the anatomy of an insect in a biology class!
    Thanks! That’s why I wanted to tie it in with Pokemon! The best part is that the kids go on their adventure excited and ready to be free, take risks, and learn about the world with their own hands. I loved the TED talk that I found, I thought it truly grasped the entire idea behind teaching in the margins. The time in the margins needs to be adventurous and fun, and creating something where students are able to explore all the time is wonderful!
    Yes! I know I personally struggle with things being unpredictable. I want things to stay in a fairly neat and organized structure. Writing this post really helped me understand how a classroom should function and that the unpredictable can be just as important (or even more important) than the predictable! Taking that unpredictability and then utilizing it for the students’ benefit is an idea that has begun to stick with me!
    Thanks! I feel the same way about my crestie! I never would have thought about getting a gecko if it hadn’t been for Planimal house. Even just watching him is so interesting and gives me something outside of the regular to see and experience! I never really thought about pairing up with a teacher from another subject to plan out a trip to the margins! But even something simple like going to a museum with a social studies teacher would be so helpful to students. They would get to experience all sorts of cool exhibits and interact within their own unique ways.
    Yep! The idea of a polyculture is so important to the margins. It shows how everything can be webbed together and used in so many different ways for students. Even something as simple as insect collecting can be linked to a lesson in class and it gets students having an experience that they may never had before! The more you can link the margins to, the more useful they become and the more students will understand!
    Thank you! I was hoping that with at least a little backstory on the world of Pokemon, that everyone would be able to understand the analogy, and I am glad that it did! The paragraphs are definitely a bit longer, but I felt that they would work as they were there to tell the story that I was presenting! I’m glad the clarification was helpful, I know that I was confused until spending time with them in class and then thinking about them when writing the post. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. First off, the Pokemon analogy is so unique and intriguing! I know nothing about Pokemon but somehow your comparison made perfect sense. The one thing I will say is that there are a few spots that have somewhat longer paragraphs, but the bullet-point parts are much easier to read and follow. You did a great job clearly differentiating between the margins and teachable moments, and it even cleared it up for me a little more since I was still slightly confused after our class discussion on the difference between them. You ended your blog with a great blurb retouching on the key aspects of margins; excitement, wonder, adventure, unpredictability. Great blog and awesome connection with Pokemon!

  3. I really like your specifics on what teaching in the margins is and means. Not only is teaching in the margins teaching with outside experiences as the basis. It is teaching where a myriad of influences come together in a “polyculture”, as you say, to create a lesson plan. This blending I think it what sometimes makes margin teaching experiences memorable for the students. When a multitude of factors are brought together to create a lesson plan it creates more opportunities for students to hold on to an aspect of that lesson. This is important in teaching in the margins, and having students hold on to your lessons

  4. Your comparison to Pokemon is so clever! Adopting a leopard gecko is definitely a Margins activity for me; I tend to only bond with things that are fluffy and lovable. I’m glad I adopted her though because I’m learning so much and experiencing something I never thought I would experience!
    The classroom should be filled with these experiences! One thing your post really made me think about was that after junior high, I never went on a class field trip! Why is that? The answer that came to mind was, “It isn’t practical. You’d be missing a full day of classes for one class.” Then I thought, what if several classes came together to plan a field trip? For example, in eighth grade, we went to Columbus to Cosi and the Ohio state house, which combined science, math, and history into one class trip. As science teachers, how can we pair up with other teachers to get students out of the center and into the margins?

  5. Dillon,
    I really enjoyed your description of how the margins are unpredictable! It’s such a true point, and in many teachers’ eyes unpredictable is equivalent to chaos and destruction in the classroom. I feel like many times, teachers are so desperate to have control over the classroom (so it doesn’t go completely insane) that they cut off the margins, thinking this is the only way to solve the problem. But you pointed out that the benefits of the margins well outweigh the risks they bring–and this is why I loved your post! You also gave great ideas about how teachers can bring the margins into the classroom, some of which I hope to use in my future classroom! Great work!

  6. Excellent work on this post, Dillon! Your analogies were stellar on so many levels and they really bring out what I think an effective classroom should be like. First and foremost, comparing the margins to a Pokemon adventure was really clever. In Pokemon, kids don’t dread getting a starter and going off into the world to learn and explore; it’s the greatest time of their lives. The true power of teaching in the margins comes from the autonomy that students have to go off on their own and figure things out for themselves. Also, the TED talk about citizen science was really compelling and I found that it was an awesome example of a classroom that lets learning be a real, tangible, adventure. Great!

  7. Dillon, I thought your post was very well done. Your parallel between a Pokemon adventure and adventuring within the margins was great! I think it helped get the point across. I thought you did a good job at explaining why the margins are so important in a classroom. It helps students connect their learning with the real world. It helps students question the world around them. Your examples of margin activities helped me understand how diverse the activities could be. I also thought your explanation of the differences between teachable moments and teaching in the margins was good. It helps to see the difference and they both can retaliate to one another. Your social media and pictures helped strengthen your blog. I would like to know what are some examples of teachable moments and how you could make them into a margin lesson. Overall, your post was awesome!

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