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OHMS race car ready for TD Bank 250 this Sunday
FINISHING TOUCHES — Crazy Horse Racing owner Mitch Green and OHMS student Jon Blake make some final adjustments to the race car the middle school and race shop have been working on for two years.
PRIMED TO GO — A Crazy Horse Racing employee works on the late-model race car built by the South Paris shop and students from Oxford Hills Middle School. The car is set to race on Sunday at the TD Bank North 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway.
PARIS — This coming Sunday, a race car Oxford Hills Middle School students have been working on diligently for the better part of two years will finally get a chance to peel rubber when it makes its debut during the TD Bank 250 race at Oxford Plains Speedway.
The experiential learning [XL] Team, a partnership between the OHMS and Crazy Horse Racing in South Paris, started in 2012 as a way to improve attendance and prevent drop-outs, but has become a model for the overall program at OHMS, explained Principal Troy Eastman, on Tuesday morning.
Eastman, along with Crazy Horse owner Mitch Green and students Jon Blake and Tyler Bumpus, were waiting for the painter to arrive and put the finishing touches on the late-model race car before it goes into competition on Sunday.
Sam Sessions, from South Paris, a veteran race car driver and winner of numerous prestigious races, volunteered as driver for the 250, Eastman said.
Students, with plenty of help from Green and his staff, have built the car from the ground-up. In the process, the students have applied lessons from the classroom to solve practical, hands-on problems, Eastman said.
Thirty students joined the program when it started and there were 50 this year, Eastman said. When the original group started, they had an 85 percent average school attendance – this year, those students average 96 percent attendance, Eastman said.
The key to the programs success has been engaging the students in their learning, Eastman said – giving them a physical project on which to apply what they have learned in the classroom.
Blake and Bumpus both agree that working on the race car has increased their engagement with school.
"Working in here is 100 times better than being in a classroom," Blake said.
It made a lot more sense, for example, to apply a 1/16 inch to an actual, physical project than using it in school, Blake explained.
Bumpus, who is entering his sophomore year of high school but is still involved with the project, said working on the project got him more interested in school and excited to come to class, especially on days he knew he'd be working at Crazy Horse Racing.
The program wasn't just about hanging around in garages and working on cars, though.
As Green makes very clear, in and out of the shop students were responsible for keeping track of their budget and managing costs.
"Whenever we were cutting a piece of pipe, I'd say 'this is the length we need, how do we minimize cost on this?'" Mitch explains. "They did a really good job with that."
That other, less glamourous side of the project is where Eastman wants to point the project in coming years. Instead of building a new car from scratch, students will be involved, with math teacher Kyle Morey, in fixing and updating the current vehicle and working on a business model to manage their work.
The hands-on learning behind the race-car project is rapidly seeping into the rest of the programming at OHMS, and the school is turning to the X-L students and teachers to be leaders as it transitions into a trimester schedule stretching across two campuses, beginning next year, Eastman said.
"This started out as a pilot program, but it has really been a pilot program for the whole school," Eastman said.