Using transformative boundary objects to create critical engagement in science: A case study


  • Contract grant sponsor: Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health.

  • Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Institutes of Health.

Correspondence to: Blakely K. Tsurusaki; e-mail:


Teachers are increasingly faced with questions of how to teach the students in diverse classrooms in ways that are responsive to their experiences outside of the classroom. This paper presents a case study of how one 6th-grade teacher in a midwestern city enacts the Choice, Control, and Change (C3) curriculum, a curriculum based on the concept of dynamic equilibrium (energy in/energy out) in science-rich and culturally relevant ways. We analyze how she used what we call “transformative boundary objects” to leverage students' cultural knowledge and experiences of food and activity practices and systems to support the learning community in (a) developing an awareness of and trying on the norms and practices of science and (b) legitimizing the values, discourses, and practices of their everyday lives, the first two tenets of Ladson-Billings (1995a, 1995b) culturally relevant teaching, to transform the traditional discourses and practices of school science. We particularly focus on Ladson-Billings third tenet, (c), the development of critical consciousness, showing how the teacher uses transformative boundary objects to transform science learning into a context where traditional boundaries between students lives and school science are blurred, and a critical consciousness about how the food system works and its connections to their everyday food choices is supported. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed 1–31, 2012