Leave the Road Less Traveled…Head for the Margins!

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by”

Robert Frost

Everyone has heard of taking the road less traveled, but what if we went off the road entirely? Leaving the path and existing on the margins is difficult. There are thickets and sharp rocks and it is hard to navigate.

Despite the difficulty, or maybe because of it, the margins or nature are spaces of diversity and growth. Educators have taken this concept of the margins and applied it as a metaphor. The margins of society are people, ideas, or practices outside of the norm.

So what do we mean by “margins” in the classroom? 

First of all, in order to have margins there has to be a center. So what is the “center” in a classroom? 

The “center” in the classroom is…

  • A monoculture
  • Textbook and curriculum dominated
  • Strictly constrained by time
  • Lacks individuality
  • Involves artificial communication
  • Favors quantity or quality

In a classroom that is strictly in the center, the teacher dominates the class and halts any curiosity or exploration of anything outside of the curriculum. 

In contrast to the center, the margins…

  1. …enrich the educational environment
  2. …represent multiple cultures
  3. …tend to fly under the radar
  4. …are easily dismissed or unnoticed 
  5. …are areas of risk and chance
  6. …allow for difference, diversity, and change

Moving the classroom into the margins enhances learning. It allows for exploration of curiosity, as we know exemplary teachers should always advocate for! The classroom can fluctuate from the center to the margins and back again, but it is vital for the classroom not to remain in the center the entire time. 

It is difficult to plan specific lessons to go to the margins, so it is important to listen to your students and follow their curiosity. This will take you to the margins!

Some examples that could help promote going to the margins in class:

A good way to introduce the margins into the classroom is to have a class pet. This allows students to be responsible. Caring for a pet allows for multiple opportunities to take the class into the margins!

Another option is going outside and exploring the natural world! Students can make observations and suggest experiments about things like insects and plant growth!

Now, you might be thinking “I go to the margins all the time! When a kid has a question or something happens in class that’s not in the lesson plan I turn it into a teachable moment!”

Teachable moment ≠ going to the margins

Teachable moments aren’t the same as going to the margins. Teachable moments are quick asides where the teacher imparts some wisdom, and then it’s back to regular content. It does not allow for communication or further curiosity. The teacher is still in control.

Exemplary teachers go beyond just moments, they focus on highlighting the margins of the curriculum and the classroom.

Teachers should go to the margins and encourage students to be themselves. Diversity in the classroom is something to be celebrated!

Follow me on Twitter @P0werh0use_Cell for more science education content!!


  1. Hi Trinity! I’m glad my descriptions resonated with you! An alternative to a class pet could be maybe class plants or even pet rocks. If not a living thing, the teacher could implement class jobs (like a paper collector or material coordinator or anything else the class needs). This would be a great way to build community and responsibility in the classroom, as well as provide opportunities for the class to go to the margins!

  2. Hey Audrey, I loved the images and graphics. They were not just fillers but actually contributed to creating a better understanding of the post. I love your last line the idea of celebrating diversity and respecting our students as actual people, not just numbers is so important and very relevant when talking about going to the margins. The margins are where everyone can be included in the classroom. What would be your advice for an alternative to a class pet or those who have allergies or lack time for a living thing?

  3. Hi Audrey, awesome post! I love your descriptions of the margins vs the center, I think it very clearly depicted both areas. I think it’s a great point that the classroom should fluctuate between margins and center. Also, I love the class pet idea. What would you have as your class pet?

  4. Hi Hannah! I’m glad you liked the idea of a class pet. It’s really cool that you had a few experiences in grade school where the class had a pet. It sounds like a great idea to let the students switch off caring for the pet!

  5. What a great read! I also love the idea of having a class pet. I remember my kindergarten teacher having a class hamster and bunny. I also had a third grade teacher who had a class turtle that students were responsible of taking care of. Every weekend, a different student would take the turtle home and care for it. It’s a great way to bring the margins into the class.

  6. Awesome blog post. Not only are the images eye-catching, but the content is very digestible. I love the class pet idea, especially in a science classroom. It instills responsibility. I never had a pet growing up so a class pet would have greatly sparked my interest. Cannot wait for your next post!

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