Lauren Hodson | September 2016

The Power of Mistakes: Creating a Classroom Environment

Students and adults are afraid to make mistakes. This is a shame because some of the best discoveries and inventions come from failures! Mistakes lead to creativity, original thought, and ideas. In order to promote a classroom environment where mistakes are not only acceptable but encouraged, there are a few things we can do as educators. 

3 Tips for Celebrating Mistakes in the Classroom Environment

  • Display Posters of Famous Quotes About Mistakes:

    Just having them on display can remind students that failure can be productive and perseverance can lead to innovation.

  • Build Mistakes Into Your Instruction:

    Make mistakes on purpose while instructing students. As a class, problem solves ways to either make the mistake work for you or fix it.

  • Design a Lesson Around the Power of Mistakes:

    This will legitimize the lessons that we can learn from failure and highlight the need to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Famous Quotes About the Power of Mistakes

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein

“One sometimes finds what one is not always looking for.” – Sir Alexander Fleming (a scientist who discovered Penicillin)

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” – Sir Ken Robinson

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce

“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”  – Thomas A. Edison

“I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  – Thomas Edison

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  – Thomas A. Edison

“The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.” – E. J. Phelps

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”– Steve Jobs

“If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake.” – Frank Wilczek

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams

“An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.” – Charles F. Kettering

Lesson Idea

  • Have students create their own Beautiful Oops! Inspired book as a class.  
  • Splash paint, spill, drip, scuff, mark up, paper and hand them out randomly to students.  
  • Students create something wonderfully unique using the “oops” and write a sentence to go along with the illustration
  • Bind the pages together to create a classroom environment book that reminds students that mistakes are encouraged, celebrated, and valued.


  • Students can select an example of a famous mistake and create a video, animation, digital comic strip, or visual presentation featuring the creator/inventor and the process in which the mistake led to something positive. Don’t forget to check out even more arts integration ideas and tech tools.
  • As an extension, students can use their prior content knowledge to improve upon these inventions. How can you make them better?

Some Famous Mistakes

  • Slinkies
  • Penicillin
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Potato Chips
  • Post-It Notes
  • X-Rays
  • Microwave Ovens
  • Popsicle
  • Aspirin
  • Silly Putty
  • Velcro
  • Plastic
  • Teflon
  • Play-Doh
  • Fireworks


The Beautiful Oops! This is an amazing book by Barney Saltzberg and is a tribute to the power of mistakes. The book can be the inspiration for lessons in your classroom environment.

To learn more about the book’s mission for celebrating creativity. There are teacher guides and lesson ideas included.

How do you create a classroom environment that is friendly to mistakes and failures?

About the Author

Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.