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8th-graders build motorcycles, try out Max Hayes




Once a week, eighth-graders from across the District travel to Max S. Hayes High School and work in teams to rebuild motorcycles.

They are also trying out Max Hayes.

The 23 students who come by yellow bus and vans are on field trips. They learn academic concepts embedded in career-technical education – for example, measuring the cubic centimeters in an engine or calculating torque value.

But Principal Derek Patterson also conceived this as a way to market his career-tech showplace and its hands-on learning to a broader audience. He plans to eventually introduce similar experiences to highlight other pathways at Max Hayes, which, in addition to automotive-related specialties include machining, welding, engineering and design, and building and property maintenance.

“People with these skills are in high demand,” Patterson said. “Baby Boomers are retiring, and younger people don’t have the training. High-wage careers that Boomers were very successful in are wide open again.”

Motogo, a nonprofit whose stated mission is to “Bring Back Shop Class,” works with the students on Thursdays in two-hours shifts – one group in the morning, another in the afternoon. The visits began at the start of the school year’s second quarter and will run through the third quarter, which ends March 6.

Motogo’s founders, Brian Schaffran and Molly Vaughan, former high school teachers, also started Skidmark Garage, a community garage where people can work on their motorcycles with tools provided by Skidmark.

Motogo has been guiding the eighth-graders as they break down, repair and rebuild donated motorcycles. Schaffran said the kids are not only picking up mechanical skills, they are also developing confidence, learning to work as a team with students they didn’t previously know and discovering that it is OK to fail.

“At first, some of them didn’t even know how to hold a screwdriver,” he said. “Now they walk right over to the bike, get out the manual and the needed tools and get after it. They’re figuring it out.”

In recruiting students, Patterson purposely reached beyond nearby schools that typically serve as feeders for Max Hayes. He ended up with kids from Alfred A. Benesch, Anton Grdina, Bolton and Marion-Sterling on the East Side and Almira, Benjamin Franklin Clara Westropp, James A. Garfield and Riverside on the West Side.

Alan, who attends Clara Westropp, and David, a student at Anton Grdina, said Max Hayes is among options they are considering. Alan said it fits with his interest in engineering, while David said this initial exposure to mechanical work has him thinking about it as a potential career.

“I enjoy it; it’s fun,” David said. “I like putting things together. I like taking down things.”

Patterson hopes the eighth-graders will promote Max Hayes at their schools. He said he talks up the high school when the kids visit but doesn’t have to work very hard at it.

“Of the 23, at least 19 have expressed interest in coming here, and not because we asked,” he said. “This program is selling itself.”

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