Margins – What They Are and Why You Should Go There

by Mason Schmidt

Margins, outside of the classroom definition, are the places where two distinct places meet in nature. For example, where the woods or forest meet the field or prairie next to them. This place of where the two distinct places meet allow for a variety of diversity to exist and also encourage complex interactions with the inhabitants of these places.

These margins become an unpredictable environment where the limits of the traditional forest in this example have expanded. When the idea of “going to the margins” is observed through the lens of educational instruction, there is a beauty in it. In the margins there is a greater space for diversity, collaboration and autonomy inside the classroom. Although it inherently becomes more “risky” both as a student and as an educator, it forces both parties to step outside of their comfort zones and results in a memorable and successful classroom experience.

Initiating stepping out of the comfort zone, which we can identify as the center of the margins, and moving away from the comfort zone, towards the margins, as an educator is imperative for growth in your students. This growth can permeate through multiple different aspects of their lives. The skills they take away from your classroom will be applied to any future they pursue. Collaboration, inquiry, teamwork and respect for diversity are essential in any future students might have.

Teaching in the Margins looks like…

  • Allowing a space for Inquiry (Having students ask whatever if on their mind and encouraging such behavior)
  • Spontaneity (Going with the flow and excited about taking risks)
  • Proposing exciting and reasonable challenges (Challenge students in ways they have never been challenged before in an academic setting)
  • Encouraging a diversity of ideas (Lean into the notion that students have strengths and weakness and using that to your advantage in the classroom)

Margins vs. “Teachable Moments”

Teaching in the margins however is very different from “teachable moments”. Teachable moments happen by accident while teaching in the margins is a very intentional effort by students and teachers working together. The teacher has to intentionally let students inquire or decide what they would like to investigate and the students have to be intrinsically motivated to go to the margins with the teacher. Teaching in the margins allows students to become more engaged because they have a larger voice in their classroom while “teachable moments” just happen and the students can respond well to those or not respond well at all depending on how they connect and engage with it.

Specific Way to go to the Margins

  • Take students outside to investigate
  • Encourage Encourage Encourage Questions! About whatever!
  • Group work where they have to tackle a challenge and work together
  • Figure out answers to questions TOGETHER
  • Praise and support individuals and groups

Going to the Margins is an essential part of being an educator. You want to be remembered as a teacher and you want your students to remember their time in your classroom. Creating lasting memories of going against the norm and away from the center of the margins will push you students to grow and love science all at the same time!

1 Comment

  1. Hi Mason! I loved your post. I really liked how you compared the margins to nature with the example of the forest meeting the prairie. This gives a better visual, because at first it was hard for me to visualize what the margins were and what they even looked like. I love the idea of encouraging questions that may lead to a discussion in the margins. We all know that some classes will be quieter than others, or maybe some kids will have bad attitudes. What will you do to still encourage questions if no one is speaking up?

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