It has been a couple of years since I met Jenifer Wells along my TCEA PD travels. She is one of those teachers that has epic-sized stories to tell about her classroom. And when you hear about her adventures, your ears perk up and your heart warms. Jenifer is the technology lab teacher in Seguin ISD. Her campus, Rodriguez Elementary, serves kindergarten through fifth grade students.
The story that stuck with me was her Epic Fail Bucket. Yes, you heard that right: EPIC and FAIL in one sentence. She tells me, “My kids need to understand that failing helps them grow and learn.” She continues with, “I don’t want to see failure as a negative or the ending of a process, I want them to see it as just one more step. So when you fail, I want you to do it EPICALLY and learn from it. Then share your epic fails and be proud of them so others can learn from you.”
How Does Jennifer’s Epic Failure Bucket Work?
Jenifer’s students are lucky to be able to design and 3D print on the school’s Dremel printer. When students run a 3D print that messes up in some way, they do not throw it in the garbage. The students take some time to observe what happened to their print. Sometimes, that particular print lands in the Epic Fail Bucket. When other students have a print failure, they visit the bucket and search for a similar failure. Their next step is to seek out the owner and learn how to fix their mistake.
In the bucket of 30 to 40 objects, students will also discover there is more than one way to fix your mistake. If you have three similar failures, the student can search out all three creators and choose which might be the best way to fix their print file.
Jenifer even has students that have moved on to middle school keep in touch with her. They will come back and ask if their mistake is still in the bucket. They are quite proud of their failure. WOW, I can’t even tell you how much this warms my heart.
If her present day students pull out an epic fail from a former student, and the student isn’t around anymore. Jenifer will try and remember what went wrong or pull up this particular file in Tinkercad. One other thing I do want to mention is that Jenifer does eventually weed out her Epic Failure Bucket. She can’t keep all of the awesome failures.
Some of the Fun Names for Their Epic Failures
Going Spaghetti – the filament ends up looking like a bird’s nest.
Humpty Dumpty – a part of the the print falls down.
Drippy – a part sticks out too far and is unsupported like an arm on a snowman. Gravity makes it drip down and makes a mess.
To wrap up our conversation, Jenifer shared that their printer started making strange thumping noises. So instead of relying on her district’s tech support, Jenifer and her students went on YouTube and found just the right video where someone else had posted the same problem. Jenifer and her students took the lid off the 3D printer and disassembled a part of their printer. They located the Limit Switch and had their 3D printer back on the track.
A big shout out to Jenifer Wells for being BOLD and sharing her epic failures.