Why is failure such a bad thing?

My class, along with the 6/7, and 5/6 class are all diligently working on their science fair projects. As a student I loved science far, it meant that I got to spend a lot of time working on the science fair projects because the teachers always gave us other classes to work on science. As a teacher, it is so frustrating; to have science fair taking up all of my students time. The point of a science project is to use inquiry to allow students to experiment with their ideas, but all I am seeing is a bunch of stressed out students that do not care about the process they are learning, they just want to finish; but they don’t want to do too good because than they might have to actually move on, which would be just horrible because the teacher might actually notice they are smart. Science fairs have become more about being able to take an already successful experiment off the internet, and doing it yourself, and than write about as if you thought there was a chance that it would not have worked. Students do not understand that science has way more failures than a successes.

If every time some on tried something, they were successful than nothing new would ever be exciting. Scientists rarely succeed, and they consider it as a learning process, so why do schools consider it anything else. One of my students is freaking out because their hypothesis is failing miserably, and I keep trying to get them to focus on what makes it fail, why doesn’t it work, what could be done differently. The student does not see this as a learning experience but a failure and would rather give up than to think about the project differently.

Failing has become a scary word, because it means that you are not able to accomplish something; no one, including me ever likes to fail. However, students need to allow themselves to be willing to fail. They will fail at hundreds of things in their lives, yet no one talks about the fact that it is O.K. to fail, they talk about how to succeed. Celebrating failures should be talked about as much as celebrating successes. We cannot change the fact that failure happens, yet as humans we do everything possible to ensure success, rather than plan for the possibility of failure, we focus on the fact that the only acceptable outcome is success. IT IS OK TO FAIL! It is OK to fail so miserably that you have no idea how to fix it because some things cannot be fixed.

Science is about failure, celebrate the failures because while failing you figured out what does not work, and gives options of other ways to look at something. Coca-cola was a major failure when John Pemberton attempted to make a medication, failed and voila, we now have a delicious and world known drink! We never teach students about the things that scientists fail on, we only focus on what does work.Science fairs should have students feeling comfortable talking about what they did, what worked and what didn’t work. If they are able to do a project without any failures than that is evidence of taking an already successful experiment and doing it, this is not an example of what science fairs should be focused on.

 

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