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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Small Engines Club

Right now I am upstairs in the school. Downstairs I can hear, well, a lot of thumping going on, and... oh dear, is that a grinder?
I'm not panicking though. This is intentional. Sometimes it is not. Then, I panic. Mr. Finn is downstairs with a group of 7 intrepid kids who signed up for Small Engines Club. I know. I know. Seriously? Small Engines Club?! What the heck is happening over there at Frenchboro School, you might ask. Well, Mr. Finn spends most of his winters here in Frenchboro freezing his tookus off in the shed out behind our house. Fixing things. Whatever kind of junk you have in the front yard, he's game to grab it. He sees potential in it. This is why we have motorcycle parts all over our garage in Cherryfield, and, gee whiz, is that an ancient chipper?
So, this summer, as we're relaxing at our farmhouse home, (well, I was relaxing, he was more gyrating with his knee going a million miles an hour) and apropos of nothing, he chimes in with, "I think I'm gonna do a small engine repair class with the kids after school this year." I eyed him warily. "When are you going to fit this in, between cross-country running and Lego Robotics practice?" He laughed. "No. In the winter. You know I'm always in that little shed...might as well do it at the school in the warmth." Yeah, in the warmth...with 11 little kids. I did not say that part aloud.

So, true to form, Mr. Finn sent out some emails to the town and folks he thought could help out and asked for broken down motors. I laugh. This is not exactly at a premium out here. That means there's no scarcity. Shopping malls we lack. Broken down crap we certainly have in spades. Soooo, on the way back to the island after our vacation, at 7:00 in the morning, we stopped by Maine Coast Heritage Trust where our fantastic steward, Terry Towne, had amassed a scary collection of decrepit 2 and 4 stroke engines. Weed whackers, lawn mowers, tillers, chain saws. We started piling that junk on top of all our groceries and Christmas things. It was like the Clampett reunion I'm telling you...stuff sticking out akimbo like you've never seen before. Thank god it was early as I was downright mortified. Mr. Finn, as you can imagine, was in hog heaven.
So, first day of school back after two weeks off. Kids are all clambering for Small Engine Club. Clambering, I tell you! Just back, you'd think they'd want to ease into it. Nope. 7 of them run downstairs like it's Christmas all over again. I could hear the hammering and had to go downstairs to make sure nothing untoward was going on. Not a lot of talking going on. Mr. Finn is a man of action. These kids are, too, though usually nothing silences Brody who loves to gab away as he works. Nope. Everyone working like crazy. For fun, this is!

Big smiles on their faces, every one, can't wait to show me what parts they'd removed already. There was especially a lot of, "Ms. Finn, look how dirty my motor is!" They were downright proud.
This thing is practically as big as he is, little 5 year old man!
And the girls? Right in their with gusto. You go, girls!
Again, with the smiles, like this is just the greatest fun they can imagine.
And where's Mr. Finn? Right in there with them, of course. He's often told me that if he had known this sort of thing was taught in schools, he surely would have ended up a mechanic, not a teacher. Mr. Finn can fix just about anything. Now, he can pass it on to kids who will really benefit from the skills. Melts my heart, really, to see all these little grease monkeys.
So now it's day 2 and they're all down there working away. Grinder stopped and I went down for a peek. They are positively covered with grease and could not wait to show me. (We thankfully bought not one, but two bars of Lava soap.) Everything is in pieces. They're showing me all the parts, Saylor found a live bug in her engine. I'm not even kidding. But their bright, eager faces tell me that, yet again, school is not a place they hate to come, not a place that they grimace about, not a place that they dread or drag their feet getting to. Our school is a place that, even when they don't have to be here they come anyway, with a smile. And we, of course, smile back.

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