Laurie Fountain ...

Competent, often innovative, teachers are the core for students to thrive and acquire the educational tools they need to succeed in their lives and their chosen careers. Laurie Fountain is one such teacher who has customized the Maker Movement for use in Coronado Middle School.

Competent, often innovative, teachers are the core for students to thrive and acquire the educational tools they need to succeed in their lives and their chosen careers. Laurie Fountain is one such teacher who has customized the Maker Movement for use in Coronado Middle School. Her innovative lab, ilab, emphasizes hands-on education, where students apply their knowledge to create more than a completed answer sheet. Called Making Making, this learning pedagogy stresses application skills that expand the basic knowledge of the subject and recognize the idea that students learn best by discovering and experimenting. Educators like Montessori are acknowledged for their contribution to interactive learning, and the Maker Movement builds on that.

Fountain’s Alabama childhood included a fun, close family and a father who assumed girls were as capable as boys to wield a hammer, drill, or saw and fix whatever was broken. “My father is a Jack-of -All -Trades, so he would let me cut wood, paint, and he would let me do all of these hands on things. If anything ever was broken, he was like, let’s try to fix it. I was always hands on from a young age with him.” That mindset serves her well in the ilab where projects often require use of a tool.

Conscientious teachers strive to make their teaching effective to all students, a difficult task since a classroom has students with various learning styles and abilities. Fountain’s ilab is a student-centered classroom with tables for groups, a wall stocked with materials for the hands-on work, and technology to give sound and movement to the projects. The ilab encourages creative thinking within a group that produces a project built to adhere to the subject teacher’s guidelines.

The subject teacher, whether it is English, science, or humanities, confers with Fountain to create the parameters for the classwork. Problem solving is built in, and creativity as well as productive group work are goals. “Always there is a of content knowledge that has to be there for them to make these projects. They’re not just coming in here and doing arts and crafts. Then they actually take the time to learn from each other, so that’s kind of what happens.”

When the projects are complete, the class presents a Showcase to explain their work and teach what they have learned, which incorporates various district standards, such as listening and speaking. Fountain says, “We showcase pretty much everything that happens in here… and we invite district people, teachers, other classes, and they set up in here and showcase, and that is when their pride… I mean their eyes are lighting up. They’re actually telling the visitors how they did it, what they did, and they’re using content, so you know they learned, and we know they learned it.”

“Watching students innovate is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in education. Watching them have an idea in their head and then bringing that to life. That’s huge. I mean there’s a huge creative place for adults, so watching students do that, it’s mind blowing. They just teach me a lot of the time, so it’s a different type of learning and different type of teaching, but it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”

In October, Fountain was a presenter in Anaheim at the STEM Symposium, the first teacher in the district to present at that event. As the leader of the team, she took two other teachers with her for the session: Increasing Teacher Equity to Get the Maximum Use of a Makerspace. Fountain designed the Coronado Middle School ilab and Strand ilab. She mentors Strand’s ilab teacher and the ilab teacher at Village Elementary School.

Although her grandmother was a teacher, which gave teaching exposure, Fountain’s experience at a summer camp working with five-year olds initiated her into the teaching field. “I saw that there was a need to get them prepared during the summer, so I started doing a kindergarten readiness in the summer camp. It’s just like an hour a day in the classroom where they were learning colors and letters and stuff like that, and I loved (teaching) those basics, so I went into kindergarten. That was my first job too as kindergarten, but now I’m far from that. I feel like someone says, ‘Well what’s your favorite grade level,’ and I was like, ‘Take me there.’ I can make it my favorite, and I believe that. I believe anywhere you put me in education, and with any type of kids, with any type of socioeconomic, with any kind of behavior, I feel like I can make that a place to grow and learn.”

One of her concerns is that the very young, even Transitional Kindergarten children, do not get the opportunity to experience an ilab time. She thinks the very young would benefit from the early intervention of innovative, hands-on learning, and she envisions that those educational building blocks would stimulate more beneficial learning in later years.

Before coming to education, Fountain was in Marketing, which she enjoyed, but “I missed having that rewarding peace in my life knowing I was making a difference each day.” She knew she had a gift to teach and work with kids, and using that gift was important. She has been an elementary teacher and a special needs teacher for nonverbal before taking on the ilab teaching.

She came to Coronado in 2019 when she married Navy Commander Matthew Fountain, a Navy pilot for 14 years and currently a NAVWAR Readiness Officer. While she loves being in Coronado, she and her husband spend most weekends traveling, visiting friends, and seeing national parks. With a National Park Passport handy, the Fountains set a goal to check off each National Park, since they enjoy hiking in nature’s beautiful settings. Zion National Park is a favorite with its many interesting trails, but many more parks wait to be viewed.

Being content with your work environment and your home place is paramount to life satisfaction. Fountain’s enthusiasm for Coronado, her co-teachers, her students, and especially her ilab are apparent as you listen to her. “It’s (ilab) just a beautiful place to watch the mind spark. A lot of students that don’t do well in other classes, they thrive in here. They always thrive in here.” Her hope is that the confidence they gain in ilab will transfer back to the other classrooms.

VOL. 112, NO. 44 - Nov. 2, 2022

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