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Middle school begins small engine class
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Middle school begins small engine class

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Small Engines Class

TOSS: Skilled and Technical Sciences teacher Bonni Riehle passes out review questions before her small engines class takes the safety exam on Monday at Waverly Middle School. The class is new for the school and is one semester long. (Staff Photo by Elsie Stormberg)

WAVERLY – Bonni Riehle first pitched the idea to teach a small engines class when she was hired to instruct skilled and technical sciences at Waverly Middle School almost one year ago in February 2020. 

On Jan. 5, the idea came to fruition. 

After the District 145 Board of Education approved the change from a metals class to a small engines class during its meeting on Jan. 4, Riehle was given the go ahead to begin teaching about these engines with 19 eighth graders the next day. 

“We’re diving right in,” Riehle said. 

The fast-paced class will be one semester each year, and is scheduled for each day for 40 minutes. It will go through safety, different tools and each part of the small engines – the fuel system, air system, lubrication system and cooling system. 

The ultimate goal, which is highlighted in the final for the class, is for students to be able to fully take apart the engine and then put it back together again so that it will run.

The students will split up into groups with each group having their own set of tools and small engine to learn on. Riehle said the class will ensure students not only know how to take the engine apart but also understand why an engine runs the way it runs.  

“(They will) not only be able to do the physical actions but the understanding of how and why it works as well,” Riehle said.

Each engine cost about $250 with the tools coming in at about $400. The total cost so far has been around $3,000, but Riehle said the class does not have all the tools it will need yet. Riehle said the cost of equipment was covered by a Perkins Grant which is a federal grant the school received. 

The students had originally signed up for a metals class for this semester, but when Riehle proposed the new class the students were asked if they would be interested. The response was confirmation enough. 

“They all shot their arms up in the air,” Riehle said. 

Riehle said the previous metals class did not offer a smooth transition from middle school trade-related classes to the high school’s classes. The metals class was often confused for a welding class, but it was a sheet metal class more focused on heating, ventilation and air conditioning, Riehle said.

Riehle also teaches the class at Southeast Community College every fall. The difference between the SCC class and the WMS class is that the college class goes into more detail about the engines. Because the SCC class is three hours and twice a week, Riehle said there is more opportunity to go into considerable detail.

“That one is just a lot more extensive,” Riehle said.

The class experience is something the students can take with them for the rest of their lives, Riehle said. The engines they’ll work on throughout the semester will be similar to mowers, snow blowers, go-karts and small motorcycles. 

“They’re the exact same principles and concepts and skills that are used,” Riehle said. “It’s going to benefit them and help them.”

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