Take a Walk in the “Margins”: A Metaphor-

What are Margins to you as a Teacher?

The diverse ecosystems between barren farm fields and an offtopic discussion in a classroom could constitute a margin. Let’s explore this margin metaphor:

  • Margins represent a place for learning, not a particular teaching style. 
  • Margins keep the classroom exciting and innovative. 
  • Allow for diversity in your classroom just as margins in nature. For an area to thrive, all individuals should occupy the same space with differing opinions. Let your students show their unique ideas and concepts. 
  • The “margins” are outside the “center”

– The center refers to a typical classroom in which all students are expected

to be homogeneous.

  • Use the margins to connect ideas back into the center. Pull the individuality of students into discussions and activities. 
  • Taking a “risk” within classroom content and the processes of science. Allow students to lead just as much as you would. 
  • Margins allow students to express themselves and stand out with their unique knowledge. 

What are the Potential “Risks” Involved in Exploring the Margins in YOUR Classroom?

  • Individuality through the margins can be seen as negative behavior by some educators. 
  • Students may use the margins to drive class discussion off-topic. 

-Use the knowledge of your students to determine between a genuine discussion

and a mischievous intention. 

  • Going into the margins could disrupt lesson plans. 
  • Margins are less predictable for educators. An activity may go to waste if the margins are explored too often. 

-Value the QUALITY of your instruction, not the quantity of information shared. 

Teachable Moments ARE NOT Exploring the Margins! 

“ An event or experience which presents a good opportunity for learning something about a particular aspect of life.”

-Oxford Dictionary

Teachable moments are: 

  • When students have a heightened interest in a subject. 
  • When a student has a related question to a lesson or activity. 
  • A student makes an error that can lead to a discussion. 
  • A sidenote to a lesson, but does not completely derail from the topic at hand. 
  • When your classroom has an eagerness to learn a certain topic. 

How to Venture into the Margins: 

Traveling from the “center” (norm) may be challenging. Especially when attempting to conduct a lesson plan. Below are a few ideas on how to naturally move class time into the margins (again, teaching in the margins is NOT a style of teaching!)

1.) Allow your students to research and share for five minutes at the beginning of each class. Let students sign up for a day of the week to share their discoveries. 

  • The only instruction is to research a scientifically relevant topic. 
  • This creates a space for students to share and engage in their interests. 
  • Give time for peers to share their thoughts and ask questions. 
  • Allow the student presenting to be creative and show their unique style of expression. 
  • Make this activity about the individual SHARING. 
  • This activity can allow students to step outside the “center.”

2.) While constructing a lab session for your students, give them the opportunity to select their own variables and form corresponding hypotheses. 

  • Allowing students to brainstorm their own hypotheses backed up by reasoning, allows them to be unique. 
  • New ideas that even YOU may have never considered may arise. 
  • Give them the means to conduct their experiment within the restraints of your budget. 
  • Students may fail, or they could SUCCEED farther than imagined when given the freedom to express their ideas. 
  • Students ARE SMART! Make your classroom a safe space for individuality and creativity. 
  • Within this, do not punish failure. Instead, celebrate their creativity and cooperation with science. 


Taking the “risky” step into the margins can be frightening. The many unknowns that occur outside of lesson plans can be daunting. BUT YOU ARE A SCIENCE TEACHER! Built to be fierce, courageous, and most of all CURIOUS!

Making time in your class to step into the naturally diverse margins can make science FUN. Students should not be shoved into equal-sized boxes and be expected to flourish. Give your students the opportunity to show you their unique identities.

So next time a student asks a thought-provoking question during class, step away from the spotlight and let the magic happen. You can always save that lesson for another day!


  1. Reply to @Cahillar:

    Thank you for all your praise. I think the best way to approach teaching is to be okay with failure. Failure just makes room to improve. The margins are a good area that can expand out of lesson plans and into the unknown.

  2. Hi Ms. Lord! I really liked your post. The memes really highlighted what you were trying to say! I liked that you talked about the risks of going to the margins. Sometimes we can get caught up in theoretical, so it’s good to think about how we are going to approach going into the margins from a practical standpoint.

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