The Margins: Where True Learning Happens

For many years, teachers have been taught to teach what is in their curriculum and to steer away from classroom diversions. Teachers may have been told to avoid difficult conversations, controversial topics, and perhaps even what is happening in the world. I am here to express my belief that this is wrong and even detrimental to true learning facilitation.

I hope you share the same concerns as I do about this practice… As teachers, I believe we not only should be willing to face the unexpected in the classroom, but embrace the unexpected in the classroom. In other words, we should strive to teach in the margins.

Teaching in the margins is not an easy task. Going to the margins in a science classroom will involve risks, it will challenge science, and it could even explore unknown territories for both the students and the teacher.

Although margins embody risk, margins make for great places to teach and experience science first hand.

Teaching in the Margins vs. Teachable Moments

Being in the margins and “teachable” moments in the classroom are not the same thing. To be in the margins, you are purposefully stepping out of the classroom comfort zone and into the unknown. In the margins, teachable moments absolutely could occur, but a teachable moment (though unpredictable) does not necessarily mean you are entering the margins of the classroom.

Teaching in the Margins

  • Can be led by the teachers and the students!
  • Can be unpredictable, but also can be implemented in a lesson
  • May lead to curiosity and passion

Lesson Plans for Going to the Margins:

  1. Open Ended Chemistry Labs: the use of open ended labs where students are tasked to explore overarching questions and think deeply can help bring the class to the margins. Avoid labs that are all procedural-based and do not leave room for inquiry!
  2. Innovative Objects: bringing a cool, uncommon science object in for the class to play with and think about can help bring the class to the margins. One way to do this is a Van de Graff generator! Help students have fun and explore electricity at the same time.

Teachable Moments

  • Usually led by the teacher
  • Ends after a cut-and-dry answer
  • Does not embrace curiosity
  • Usually unpredictable

Stepping into the Margins in my Science Classroom

Clearly, teaching in the margins is essential to being an exemplary teacher helping to stimulate curiosity, passion, and engagement in the classroom.

Some ways I want to bring students to the margins in my class:

  • When possible, I want to guide my students away from standards and the curriculum and encourage them to think how science impacts their lives and futures
  • I hope to give my students autonomy in discussion and encourage all students to participate. In the margins, it is risky but a there is a huge pay off to grow!
  • I will bring current events into the classroom (not out of the classroom!) to connect real life with what we are learning.
  • I will learn with my students and embrace the idea that there are still many things for us to learn.

1 Comment

  1. Emilia,
    I love that quote “You sometimes lose by taking risks, but you always lose by holding back” because it talks both about the inherent possibility to lose when trying something new, but the definite outcome of losing when not trying something new. Also, I like how you talk about how you want to not only guide but also encourage students to think and reflect about how science impacts their lives but also their futures. You mentioned current events and I think that could also be expanded to what might be in the future if discovery continues like it is with these current events. Great blog!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.