Moving from the Center

Summary

Teaching in the margins

Margins are a space between worlds, where two unrelated realms meet. Blurring the lines between “this” and “that”, it is an exceptional place to make connections and thrive with diversity. This theoretical boundary is an area teachers often stray from, being too afraid to get “off topic”. A margin is at the side of a central theme, for example, a corn field would be a central theme while the line between the field and the road would be a margin. Teaching within the margin provides an opportunity for exploration and deeper understanding. For example, the gray area at which history and science meet teaches students what something is and how it happened, like learning to use a microscope then learning why and how it was made. Homogenous teaching all students limits the amount of full enrichment students could be receiving when their curiosities are fostered and valued in the classroom. A standard worksheet is more easily forgotten than an exciting class discussion regarding something the class is genuinely interested in. So what does teaching in the margins look like? 

Teaching in the margins may look like;

  1. Encouraging classroom discussion and relating them to content 
  2. Flexibility in the classroom
  3. Taking risks 
  4. Enriching Activities
  5. Brainstorming
  6. Motivating curiosity
  7. Diversity

Teachable Moments Versus Teaching Within Margins

A teachable moment is a commonly known phrase and phenomena used generally, but what does it mean? I believe that a teachable moment is typically a structured opportunity of educating someone on a relevant subject. For example, a student learning times tables learned that two times 4 equals eight, then asks if that means that two times 8 equals sixteen. A teachable moment exists within the center of a lesson, not straying into the margins. Teaching within the margins is completely different. For example, a teacher is doing a lesson on human reproduction and a student inquires how far a newborn can see. While this may seem to stray from human reproduction, it gives an opportunity to foster the student’s curiosity and teach about human development. This in turn, can loop back into the original lesson if done cleverly. 

Teachable Moment Teaching in Margins
StructuredAuthentic, informal
Directly related to the lesson Strays from the central topic

Why are Margins Important in a Science Classroom?

Science thrives on curiosity and inquiry. Without straying into the margins, students are simply memorizing and regurgitating information without making personal or real life connections with the connect. Questions and going “off topic” does not take away from the main point of the lesson at hand. Instead, it adds a deeper layer of comprehension and associations. Real science is done within the margins and is essential to teaching scientific methodologies. 

How will I use Margins in my Classroom? 

As a future science educator, I find teaching in the margins to be one of my priorities. Margins give students a choice, the freedom to explore topics they are genuinely interested in. Instead of discouraging my student’s exploration, I plan to entertain their questions. Class discussions will be frequent to grow a pool of diverse ideas and thoughts from my students. I want my students to connect to science, to be excited about what they are learning. To do that, I have to let them be curious. Asking them what they think individually can help navigate into the margins as there are so many different ways of thinking. Giving students a choice in their assignments, whether they would like to do research or labs, can nudge students into the margins as well. I plan to do away with homogenous, standardized worksheets and to bring my class alive by going into the margins. 

Resources

Supporting Early Scientific Thinking Through Curiosity –https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01717/full

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3 Comments

  1. Hi!! Great post, I really enjoyed reading it and hearing your different thoughts on this topic. You have some great examples of what teaching in the margins may look like. I liked how you mentioned that teaching in the margins is so important in a science classroom and essential to teaching scientific methodologies.

  2. Hello, great blog! I really enjoyed reading through your post. I liked your explanation of the margins. I also enjoyed reading through your examples. Can you think of anymore examples to include? I loved how you said science thrives on curiosity and inquiry. I also liked how you mentioned giving students choice.

  3. Hi Jack!
    Amazing post you’ve got here. I love the section particularly about why Margins are important especially in a science classroom, and then how it’ll be used in your classroom. My question for you is do you think that a teachable moment can also be unstructured/spontaneous and also unrelated to the lessons?

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