A kidney-shaped bubble emerges from a tiny wand in second grader Isaac’s hand. He inspects the soap film once suspended within the wand’s loop. As the wind takes over the sphere takes flight. It’s a lesson of discoveries. How do wind and air movement change a bubble’s shape? Why do bubbles look and feel the way they do? What role does gravity play in bubble creation and motion?
Teacher Laurie Coy’s students at Summit Academy Community School – Warren Elementary know a thing or two about science, as well as technology, engineering, art and math. Otherwise known as STEAM studies, the lessons Coy teaches have students immersed in projects involving Play-Doh planets, weathered glass, basic electronics and solar ovens, to name some.
Inside Coy’s classroom, where she teaches classes of students ranging from kindergarten to seventh grade, lessons take on an evolution. A discussion about the Earth’s hydrosphere leads students on a trek down the school hallway where the destination is a drinking fountain. There, the youngsters and their teacher talk about the availability of fresh water in some parts of the world, but not in others. Dialog about water conservation ensues, as do drawings that depict ways to conserve water. A student takes the discussion on a fitting detour when he announces that his father knows about plumbing and fixing household problems.
“I’m learning with them,” says Coy. It’s a surprising statement from a seasoned teacher with more than two decades of experience and certification as a highly qualified teacher as well. But Coy’s sense of humility rings clear through her words as well as her actions.
She says she takes a thrify and industrious approach to class lessons and materials. She uses granite samples donated from a local company for a lesson on rocks. She complements another lesson on how elevators work with a hands-on activity devised by her husband, a mechanical engineer.
”The kids are busy. They don’t want to sit there and be lectured,” says Coy, who also incorporates experiments, videos, books and, of course, projects into her lessons. “I try to relate lessons to real-world connections as much as I can.” She points to her recent lesson on why specific building materials are used to make structures according to their environmental conditions. An apartment building exposed to frequent hurricanes, for instance, may be constructed using concrete for its resiliency against strong winds and rain, she explains.
Coy also blends art into her lessons. She describes, for example, how her students drew blueprints before they made a simple electrical current using a battery and mini lightbulb. School Principal Allison Glass helped pave the science instructor’s path to teaching the STEAM curriculum, says Coy, describing her feelings of gratitude and joy for that mentorship.
“Allison Glass has seen my creative side and pushed me to blossom,” says Coy, adding that she and Glass have both been with Summit Academy for nearly 20 years. “She is my iron as well because iron sharpens iron. Allison has brought out the best in me and under her leadership I have really grown and become the best I can be.”
Looking back at her long and rewarding teaching career, Coy approaches it today with same high level of enthusiasm she did when she started her vocation at a private school in the 1980s, fresh out of Malone University.
“I’m going in with a bang this year. My job is exciting. Teaching at Summit Academy is such a great experience,” she says.