I wanted to start with this quote from former Civil Rights Leader & U.S Rep, John Lewis. This quote has a lot of applicability to many scenarios in our political and social world, but I think it can extend to teaching in the margins as well. Going to the margins means taking risks alongside our students, and engaging in science in a way that is truly authentic. I think getting into good and necessary ‘trouble’ in the science classroom can look like so many different things because the margins are an unknown territory, due to the authentic nature of student curiosity (or teacher initiation) that drives its’ destination. Margins are where student exploration and creativity will explode. These unknown places are where there is potential to know through the process of inquiry. Allowing students to engage in the “how’s?” and straying away from the “what’s?” are a good indication you’re giving your students the opportunity to head to the margins. So buckle up!
What does teaching in the Margins look like?!
I created this diagram to help explain what teaching in the margins means. In this diagram, the margins are depicted as the edge, the place that only exists because of its surroundings (Margins cannot exist without the center of instruction). If you can visualize margins as a place for potential and possible growth, imagine someone pinching & stretching out the spot where the margins reside (blue triangles), eventually both bubbles will get bigger and bigger. By spending time in the margins there is now more room created for knowledge and action. The center of instruction also grows, and it becomes healthier when the margins push to new possibilities. Margins are the connecting points between knowledge and action, teachers and students, students and students, and students and content.
In This Ted Talk below, Karen Maeyens explores the power of asking questions. She explains how asking questions can have a snowball effect, generating more questions, and more things to be curious about. Asking questions are a great way to embark on a journey to the margins! This can be done in all aspects of life, including the science classroom. She discusses how asking questions can lead us to creating our own, innovative maps in which we investigate. Maeyens sends a powerful message about how being curious and asking questions can take us to diverse areas to explore and make sense of our surrounding world.
How might we embark on this journey to the margins?
- Asking students questions or their opinions about scientific issues
- “What method would you use to locate correct data for COVID-19 numbers?”, “Why does it matter where we get this data from?”, “How can schools/business use this data to help inform their decisions to operate safely amid a nation pandemic?”
- “How can we, as a class, do our part to reduce our impacts on climate change?”, “Why should we engage in these practices?”
- We can encourage discussions within our students that extend content lessons
- For example: after talking about how certain organisms blend in with their environment as a defense mechanism (camouflage), we then put students into small groups and have them come up with an example of an organism that does this, and they can investigate and research why and how this organism does this or other questions they want to explore to deepen their understanding of this scientific phenomenon.
- Put animals in our classrooms- This will spark compounding questions that students can generate off their own curiosity. This will be a great starting point to inquire alongside our students. Some of these students Q’s could look like:
- “Why do lizards shed their skin?”
- “Why do our two class beta fish have to be in separate tanks when ur two class goldfish can be together?”