Get your mower running: Sycamore ag mechanics students learn life skills at lawn mower clinic fundraiser

Sycamore ag mechanics students learn life skills at lawn mower clinic fundraiser

SYCAMORE – Instead of going to a big chain store to have his lawn mower serviced before grass-cutting season, Cliff McKay of Sycamore stopped by Sycamore High School.

McKay dropped off his lawn mower to be serviced by students in the SHS agriculture mechanics class during their first-ever lawn mower clinic.

For $30, students changed oil, cleaned air filters, checked spark plugs, sharpened blades and hand-washed the exterior on the mowers. Spark plugs and air filters could be replaced for a small extra charge.

“I thought the clinic was a really good idea,” McKay said. “It’s a great way to help students out, and it’s great timing, right before having to go out and cut the grass this spring.”

The 30 students in the two ag mechanics classes spent three days working on 70 lawn mowers. The clinic was held as the classes finished their unit about small engines.

“The unit and the lawn mower clinic teach the students basic maintenance skills, as well as troubleshooting and how to diagnose a problem,” teacher Christian Thurwanger said.

Agriculture Department Chair Kara Poynter said that the lawn mower clinic teaches students “real-life experiences.”

“The students learn a lot in the class, and the clinic provides a hands-on way to use what they learn,” she said. “It’s great that they can learn and practice those skills under a teacher’s guidance, really hone and shape them. When the students graduate, they’ll have skills they can use the rest of their life.”

Austin Gerdes, a junior taking the class, said that working on the lawn mowers was “a fun and cool experience.”

“I’ve never fixed a lawn mower for another person before, and I think it’s taught me a lot of useful skills,” Gerdes said. “Now I’m able to use the knowledge I’ve learned to fix other objects and my own stuff in the future.”

Sophomore Daniel Young described working on the lawn mowers as “a puzzle.”

“It’s fun and interactive,” he said. “I love working on machines. I want to get into a trade after graduation, and this is a great way to learn the skills I need.”

Darla Kroeger of Sycamore and her son both brought their lawn mowers to the clinic.

“I think it helps the school and the students out, but it also helps me out, because I needed my lawn mower maintenance,” she said. “It’s great to see the students working together, and they are learning great life skills. Those skills will help them later in life and are applicable to everyday situations.”

The money raised through the clinic will be used to purchase impact drills, welders and tool carts for the agriculture program.

“Right now, we only have nine tool carts and need 30,” Thurwanger said. “It means a lot that the community got involved in the clinic to support our program. Honestly, I didn’t know how many people would bring their lawn mowers to us. We’ve had a great turnout this year, and we will do it again next year, the same time of year.”

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.