THE SMILE COIN Project
“For a long time, I heard about the amazing, skills-based manufacturing program at St. Marys High Area School, and when it was formalized into Dutch Manufacturing a few years ago, I finally got to visit the program and tour the classrooms, and meet the students. I was in complete awe of what I saw both in the classrooms and within the confidence and talents of the participating students—skills, expertise, and self-empowerment that might otherwise get overlooked if this program did not exist. I have toured schools across the country with similar programs, and I was instantly so proud that we have this awesome, life-changing program right here in our area.
As a generation, Gen-Zers are redefining and reshaping what education looks like to them and how it can most effectively meet their talents and goals at this moment in time. The Dutch Manufacturing Program has taken this call-to-action from Gen-Z to heart, and is meeting students where they are and helping them to rise from there!
I immediately knew that I, especially as an artist, wanted to collaborate with the students on a project of some kind, but the question became ‘What?’. Eventually, Community Education Center Executive Director Kate Brock and I chatted and decided that translating my Participatory and Interactive Art installation titled ‘THE SMILE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD (is yours)’ into a coin, which would be called THE SMILE COIN, would be a good direction to pitch to the DM students. The DM students were immediately on board with the concept of both a coin and a partnership with me and the Community Education Center. The result has been one of the most incredible collaborations of my career, not to mention—with 4,000 SMILE COINS rippling out into the world—it is my largest work of art to date.”
ABOUT THE SMILE COIN PROJECT:
(Please also see the photo gallery that follows.)
St. Marys Area High School’s Dutch Manufacturing Students, the Community Education Center of Elk & Cameron Counties, and Artist John Schlimm Collaborate to Create 4,000 SMILE COINS
(St. Marys, PA — November 2023) – St. Marys Area High School’s Dutch Manufacturing students, the Community Education Center of Elk and Cameron Counties (CEC), and international award-winning author, artist, advocate, and educator John Schlimm have collaborated to design and produce THE SMILE COIN. Inspired by the students’ design, drafting, and tooling work and Schlimm’s Participatory Art project “THE SMILE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD (is yours)” that has been installed across the country, THE SMILE COIN has been manufactured in an edition of 4,000 powdered metal coins by Metco Industries.
Released on the eve of the 10th Anniversary of “THE SMILE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD (is yours),” THE SMILE COIN embodies the essence of STEAM (science/technology/engineering/arts/math) while emphasizing the importance of community service, mental health awareness, and the impact of even our simplest gestures of compassion, such as a smile. Each student in the St. Marys Area School District will receive two SMILE COINS: a SMILE to keep and a SMILE to give away.
“From the moment I was introduced to Dutch Manufacturing, I became a huge cheerleader for the program and its extraordinary students, and I wanted to create something special with them,” said Schlimm. “THE SMILE COIN represents so much of what my work as an artist, educator, and advocate for young people and mental health is about, while serving as a powerful symbol of skills-based education that opens up worlds of possibilities for each student’s unique skills and talents to shine.”
Schlimm and the CEC have been working with the Dutch Manufacturing students since January, collaboratively discussing, conceptualizing, and finalizing the design, materials, and roll-out for THE SMILE COIN.
“The collaboration between the three of us has really become something special and meaningful,” said SMAHS senior Mayson Annis, who serves as President and PR Director for Dutch Manufacturing. “It’s been a great experience and opportunity for multiple generations to come together creatively and showcase everyone’s individuality and the skills they possess. I’m excited to see what the future holds for not only the SMILE idea, but all those involved and affected by it.”
Skills-based and student-led, Dutch Manufacturing is a high school program that is focused on developing students for the ever-growing world of Advanced Manufacturing. The skills that are developed throughout this program translate into qualified individuals who will be successful in the manufacturing sector, post-secondary education, and/or an apprenticeship/internship type of program.
While the students have already designed and manufactured several items for local businesses, THE SMILE COIN is their first product created at the intersection of nonprofit community service and mental health awareness. This is also the first time the students have collaborated with an artist, bringing the essence and impact of STEAM learning in the classroom and the community full-circle.
“This has truly been a collaboration between all parties involved and a great learning experience for the Dutch Manufacturing students,” said Dutch Manufacturing Coordinator Jesse Schreiber. “They have had the chance to use the skills and knowledge that they have learned in class and apply them to a real-world scenario. A huge thank you to Gerg Tool and Die, Inc., Metco Industries, Inc., and Ion Technologies for working with the students to make this project a success.”
The Community Education Center secured the funding for manufacturing THE SMILE COIN at Metco Industries, Inc. via a generous Powder Metal Initiative mini-grant through Penn State DuBois. Likewise, Gerg Tool & Die, Inc. made the tools for the project and Ion Technologies did the coating. The CEC has long focused on programming around science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts throughout Elk and Cameron Counties, including their longtime support of Dutch Manufacturing.
“It has been such a pleasure working with the Dutch Manufacturing students to collaboratively create THE SMILE COIN,” said CEC Executive Director Kate Brock. “Together, we have made creative and technical decisions along the way to produce a meaningful and inspiring outcome that will ripple across the entire school district. This project is one more example of why our community is so proud to be the home of this student-run enterprise!”
For more information about Dutch Manufacturing, please visit www.dutchmfg.com.
THE SMILE COIN PHOTO GALLERY:
From January to November 2023, the Community Education Center’s Executive Director Kate Brock and Program Manager Amy Goode and John met regularly with the Dutch Manufacturing students to discuss and strategize every element of THE SMILE COIN Project.
Collaboratively, they decided everything from the design of the coin—text, imagery, color, and size—and quantity to who would receive it, and ultimately how THE SMILE COIN Tour to launch the coin during November 13 to 17 would include an unprecedented 15 assemblies over 4 days that would involve 4 St. Marys Area School District PreK to 12 schools with 1,800 students and the distribution of 4,000 SMILE COINS.
The Dutch Manufacturing/SMILE COIN Team also visited the companies that helped to manufacture the physical coins, including Gerg Tool & Die, Metco Industries, and Ion Technologies to see THE SMILE COIN in its various stages of production.
During the week before THE SMILE COIN Tour, the Dutch Manufacturing/SMILE COIN Team packaged the 4,000 SMILE COINS and finalized logistics for the groundbreaking 15 assemblies to come.
During one week in November 2023, the Dutch Manufacturing/SMILE COIN Team, including moderator Assistant Superintendent Chrissy Kuhar, made history by embarking on an unprecedented school district-wide tour encompassing 15 assemblies with 1,800 students at 4 PreK to 12 schools over 4 days during which they spoke about the project and distributed 4,000 SMILE COINS.
THE SMILE COIN Tour Stop #1: St. Marys Area Middle School — Grades 6 to 8 — November 13, 2023:
THE SMILE COIN Tour Stop #2: South St. Marys Street Elementary School — Grades PreK to 5 — November 15, 2023:
THE SMILE COIN Tour Stop #3: Fox Township Elementary School — Grades K to 5 — November 16, 2023:
THE SMILE COIN Tour Stop #4: Grand Finale at St. Marys Area High School — Grades 9 to 12 — November 17, 2023 — Included presentations of SMILE COINS to State Senator Cris Dush’s office, the City of St. Marys, The Historical Society of St. Marys & Benzinger Township, and Penn State DuBois:
The photograph above was taken in the very final minute of the final Assembly #15 to document and celebrate the exclamation point to an historical and unprecedented merging of skills-based STEAM education, Participatory/Interactive Art, mental health awareness, community service, and Generations X & Z!
And now, the next chapter of THE SMILE COIN Project ripples onward as the Dutch Manufacturing students, Community Education Center, and John have been joined by the 1,800 students, who have become co-artists with them as they share the 4,000 SMILE COINS with the world in the days, weeks, months, and years to come . . .