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An Interview with San Miguel Academy of Newburgh (SMAN)
June 3, 2015
Based on our success in finding several innovative colleges who have fully embraced 3D printing, we decided that we should look at what is being done in the earlier years of education to prepare students for the future. In the second segment of our series on the use of 3D printing in the K-12 arena, we caught up with Frank Snyder, Dean of S.T.E.A.M. Development, Coordinator of Place Based Learning for S.T.E.A.M at San Miguel Academy of Newburgh (SMAN) and Cathy Joyce Wooters, Director of Advancement at the school. San Miguel Academy is a middle school located in the city of Newburgh, NY serving boys in grades 6-8. Students at their school have been fully immersed in the technology and the teachers there are dedicated in finding ways to incorporate it throughout the coursework. The interview was conducted via email, and the transcript is here below.
1) How and when did you all decide to get into 3D printing?
2) Had anyone in your organization had experience with the technology?
3) What type of 3D printer(s) are you using?
4) What materials are you printing with?
5) Can you speak a little bit about how 3D printing has become integrated into your curriculum? How early does the training begin?
6) What kind of reaction did the students and parents have since 3D printing efforts began? How has it helped students with their educational achievement?
Last year and into the beginning of this year one of these students struggled to wear his uniform every day, complete his work, and to socially accept how people behave at San Miguel. One day the student was sitting out of gym and instead of doing nothing he was shown how to work the 3D printer. He printed a small basketball hoop and was hooked. Now this student comes in everyday dressed in his uniform, shirt tucked in and with his work complete. He has truly made a 180 degree turn.
The 3D printer creates the opportunity for the student to individualize his learning for any assignment. It allows for cost effective prototyping which can be analyzed and tinkered with to fit the needs of the boys and their projects.
7) What have been some of the most impressive items built by your students thus far?
8) What do you think schools and universities can do to better (if anything) to foster STEM efforts related to 3D printing? What do you think are the biggest barriers to a novice getting involved with the field and the technology?
One main barrier is that people think 3D printing is a STEM or STEAM only project, so though its cool it is not seen as practical for other subjects. This is a false assumption, since 3D printing can allow students to think about all subject material at a high level and then create an object that connects to what they are learning and further their understanding. For novices getting involved the technology is something very different then what most people are used to.
People tend to like to do what they did growing up especially when it comes to teaching. Learning how the printers work, the program to use the printer and the CAD program can be intimidating but after a few times you learn how everything works. It is just understanding what the technology can do and then applying them in new creative ways to use it that fit your students
About San Miguel (SMAN)
Established in 2006, San Miguel Academy of Newburgh (SMAN) is an independent, faith based, middle school for low income underserved boys living in the City of Newburgh, NY, the murder capital of NYS. The school currently serves 67 students in the 5th- 8th grades and supports 55 graduates in secondary school. That number will increase by 14 in June.
The local public school, Newburgh Free Academy (NFA), deals with overcrowding, alarming gang violence, as well as a disturbing graduation rate of less than 30% for low income underserved students. At San Miguel our boys begin to disengage from the culture of the street and adapt a more positive attitude toward education in general. As first generation learners with little community support the boys need the nurturing environment of San Miguel Academy.
According to an article written by Ken Hall from the Times Herald- Record, "Poverty is the Root Cause of Low Student Readiness", he reports that only 17% of Newburgh students are prepared to move on after high school graduation. San Miguel Academy has been successfully exporting students to a variety of secondary school programs as the SMAN graduates continue to "defy the odds".
Beginning in the fifth grade when a student enters San Miguel, he is introduced to his own future of possibilities which is based on staying in school, graduating from San Miguel and Secondary School and guiding him to Post- Secondary opportunities which include the college entrance process and gaining employment. San Miguel Academy and the Graduate Support Program (GSP) are in the business of creating productive, educated and moral citizens. Today, 90% of our graduates are in private school settings on either a day or boarding basis and 100% of SMAN graduates remain in secondary school programs. The GSP also provides after school opportunity for tutoring, mentoring, and employment for SMAN graduates who attend school locally and for those students home on school break. Our doors are always open to our graduates.
In 2006 we nailed flyers to telephone poles in local neighborhoods to advertise the opening of our school and today San Miguel is in the midst of a growth spurt and we have a waiting list. SMAN is based on a forty-year-old model of educational reform that began with the Jesuits in New York City. The model proves that having at risk kids in smaller learning environments gives them the individual attention they need to succeed. The entrance to school is framed by the words: "the street stops here". Inside San Miguel there is not any divide between African-Americans and Latinos, which pre-exists in the neighborhoods.
Nearly all of the students who attend San Miguel Academy arrive two years or more behind grade level in academic skills. By graduation most boys have surpassed grade level proficiency. Our students spend 35% more time in school than their peers in public school. Research demonstrates that this targeted population benefits greatly from hands-on learning. San Miguel has created a Project and Place Based Learning STEM Curriculum (PBL2) in partnership with many Hudson Valley educational sites. We have an integrated approach to curriculum that requires a blend of in school lessons that are supplemented by PBL2 off site lessons offered by our PBL2 partners—Constitution Marsh, Hudson Highlands, Sprout Creek Farm, Clearpool' and Mohonk Preserve. Because our students have a deficit of life experiences, it makes sense that PBL2 will enhance his view of the greater community while strengthening the depth of knowledge related to the curriculum. We have seen a positive impact on the boys' behavior, increased ability to work together in groups and a higher rate of retention of academic material and increased vocabulary. There is clear data to confirm that PBL2 can lessen the achievement gap for low-income children who lag behind their suburban counterparts across the nation.
In November 2013 San Miguel relocated to a new facility and took over a wing of St. Francis School that had been closed in the 1990's. San Miguel has incurred costs for the current build out to update the space and bring it up to 21st century learning standards. The move has been doubly impactful in the community since we have remained in Tract 5 in the poorest place in the city of Newburgh that is the poorest city in Orange County, NY. San Miguel will begin its ninth academic school year in September and continues to represent a safe haven for students to escape the streets and to participate in a program that will redirect and reshape their futures.
As an independent school San Miguel does not receive any funding from the NY Archdiocese or the government.
Our students are primarily Hispanic (67%); African American (30%) and Multi-Racial (3%). SMAN students are eligible for free or reduced price meals under Title1 of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Students come primarily from single parent households (female head of household). A few of our students have been in foster care as younger children and have later been adopted by a grandparent or other family member.
San Miguel Academy currently has a staff of 10 employees including 4 teachers, President, Academic Dean, School Counselor, 1 Secretary and 1 Development Director and Communications Asst.Statement of Need: Newburgh has a population of only 29,026 people, yet it presents as a large city with equally large problems. Consider the following statistics:
In short, there is perhaps no other population center in New York State with a greater need to provide its young people with an educational outlet, and San Miguel Academy of Newburgh has filled that void the last 10 years by providing its middle-school students a quality education.