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December, 2002

Shoreline High Restores An American

September 11, 2002, was a big day for remembrance. That same day, Shoreline Continuation High School students began work on the 59 Rambler American which Dan Bagley and Jim LeFever had delivered to the asphalt slab next to the school, the previous evening.

After a quarter century off the road and out of doors, the little American was rather needy. Despite four flats, no brakes, an engine that had not run since before Shoreline's students were born, a great deal of surface rust and a crumbling interior, the Rambler was an excellent candidate for restoration.

This little 2-door station wagon is a rare and desirable model. The most important items-body, trim and glass-are complete and in good shape. Besides that, it looks like the cartoon cars in the Chevron commercials.

But why would a continuation high school restore an old car? Shoreline teacher, Jim LeFever saw several good reasons. First, old cars are now big business. The skills that students pick up from this restoration project may land a high paying job in the future.

Second, this is project based learning at its best. The resto will use all sorts of academic skills in a real world context. For instance, students will use math skills to calculate carpet and upholstery needs, and deciphering the 40 year old service manual employs critical reading skills.

Thirdly, the students involved are learning to use our local human resources. Student Sean Sicroff's grandfather, John O'Brien, did some electrical troubleshooting. Tools and expert mechanical advice have been offered by student Raymond Brown's father, Rick Brown. Art teacher Rose Halady's partner, Frank Angelica, solved the final problems and got the motor running.

A fourth lesson to be learned from this project is patience. We found that nothing about a 59 Rambler American is fast. The search for a service manual and various parts was long and arduous. The students have seen that this job simply can't be rushed.

For LeFever, this project has one additional meaning. Despite many acts of sacrifice and courage, the year following the attacks of 9/11/01 also brought negative change to our country. The scope and meaning of the attacks has been distorted for political advantage, a hateful strain of nationalism has spread from coast to coast and war is becoming quite popular. So, LeFever resorted to metaphor (the restoration of an American - get it?).

This deeper meaning likely eludes the students, but when they finally heard the Rambler running, they experienced the rewards of patience and hard work. Soon, after rebuilding the brakes and getting compression in cylinder #6, the American will return to the road.

 

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