Imagine with me for a moment if you will that we are going on a walk on the beach. And on this walk we’ll stay walking in the sand. Now, we might find some cool shells or rocks, but we probably won’t see much of anything interesting. Let’s start walking where the water meets the sand. Here we might find sand dollars, sea stars who need help getting home, and maybe even a horseshoe crab.
Growing up my friends and I would spend hours right in that area of the beach that wasn’t quite water and wasn’t quite sand. We’d turn over rocks to look for crabs and every now and then a horseshoe crab would be sent a shore and we’d have the interesting task of helping it find it’s way home. It was quite a fun time.
Now, you’re probably think, why are we talking about this?
Well, this area, between the sand and the ocean, is a margin. And just as we journey out to these margins in nature, so too can teachers in the classroom. And the learning students take from the margins is something they will remember forever.
But what are margins?
Margins are “places of harmony, diversity, and freedom…Margins push into new areas, worlds, places, and potentialities” From Exploration, Risk-Taking, and Wonderment: Traveling to the Margins of Instruction
Let’s break down what that means when it comes to teaching.
Places of diverse learning
Margins are places where students can ask questions and engage with topics in ways they might not have considered before. Margins provide enrichment that isn’t provided in a typical classroom.
Each student that explores the same margin will not have the same experience as the rest of their students in their class. Margins provide opportunities for students to make the learning experience their own.
Filled with endless potential and endless information
Because margins are constantly growing and changing, what they offer is endless. Year after year you can return to the margins with a new classroom of students and experience something totally different from years past.
Push students to explore new ideas, topics, and ways of learning
Because margins are filled with endless potential and endless information, margins push students to explore everything the margin has to offer. Margins give space for students to ask questions they’re curious about. Once they’ve asked questions, they have the autonomy to explore the answers in new and exciting ways!
Places of risk and growth.
In nature margins are unpredictable environments, but for organisms that live in the margins the result can be amazing. The same is true for our classes. Learning in the margins present many risk factors; but when we travel to the margins and strive to make the best of our experience in the margins, what and how we learn will be unlike anything we’ve experienced before.
What are some ways we can travel to the margins?
Traveling to the margins may seem difficult at first but here our some lessons to help you get started thinking about how you would travel to the margins!
Take students to an amusement park and in between rides discuss the physics involved in making the ride fun, functional, and safe!
Try an owl pellet dissection! It will help introduce students to dissections and ask questions before gathering and assessing data to answer their questions!
I grew up near the Long Island Sound, and one of my favorite days was a field trip where we performed different experiments on the beach to answer questions about the sound. I even got do build my own city and watch what happened when it flooded!
Here’s a cool resource about lessons to at a LIS field site! Do you have any areas near your school that would allow you to travel to the margins?
This teacher worked with students to make pop-fly launchers that helped them learn engineering. And it sounds like here kids loves it!
Don’t Forget to Return to the Center
The margins are great, and the opportunities they provide are even better. But we can lose our learning objectives and our direction if we don’t return to the center every now and then.
But what is the center?
Think of your traditional classroom with the teacher at the front and the students at their desks.
Now your center doesn’t have to look like a lecture every time you return to the center, students can be in discussion groups talking about what you learned or you can have a whole group discussions. Do long as you return to the center and have a way to debrief what the students learned in the margins.
It Needs to be Intentional
Traveling to the margins is an intentional act. Occasionally we might find ourselves in a teachable moment where we can learn a lesson from something that happened. But we go to the margins instead with the intention of learning. The learning that happens in the margins is not accidental.
TLDL (too long, didn’t read)
This is how I like to think of the margins. With the center as our traditional classroom and what’s outside as the “real world” of science. The margins are the place between.
We need to journey there so students can eventually travel to the world outside our classroom, but we also must return to our classroom to debrief what we learn in the margins so students can take that information with them when they leave.
How will you travel to the margins?
See you next week!