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GRHS gets extreme ag shop makeover

By Staff | Sep 26, 2013

GARY CLARK, Glidden-Ralston agriscience education/FFA advisor, watches as GRHS vocational ag students Mike Wittrock, center, and Douglas Gordon work on a Briggs and Stratton gas engine that was donated by the company.



GLIDDEN – Agriculture students at Glidden-Ralston High School didn’t need a television to watch an extreme makeover show this year, they just had to look out into their shop.

Gary Clark, Glidden-Ralston agriscience education and FFA advisor, said it had been years since the high school offered an ag-mechanics class of any type and said he thought it was time to bring them back into the school’s curriculum.

Clark said when he started teaching at GRHS, “there hadn’t been ag mechanics at the school for at least 10 years and I wanted to see it started back up.”

“This is awesome curriculum, very science heavy and helps kids put their learning into their own hands.” —Gary Clark GRHS ag instructor, FFA advisor

Clark got busy applying for grants and seeking advice from his former Iowa State Universty ag professor, Ryan Anderson.

“Ryan Anderson came over,” Clark said, “helped me set up a game plan and we figured it would be at least 10 years to get where we wanted to be.

“We joked that it would be fun to do an extreme shop makeover.”

That joke actually turned into reality this summer, allowing for GRHS as the first Iowa State University Extreme Agricultural Mechanics Makeover recipient.

Clark said after their meeting, Anderson sought equipment donations from industry professionals for the makeover and was earning the school donations from Scranton Manufacturing, Bomgaars in Carroll, Bosch, Briggs and Stratton, Stihl, Craftsman, Sears, Irwin, Miller Welding, Hokel Supply of Ames, Campbell Hausfeld and Hypertherm.

Douglas Gordon

Companies donated a variety of gear from tools to welders and small engines to be used in the school’s renewed curriculum.

“This is a great start to where I would like to see the program go,” Clark said, “but we have a long way. It’s a work in progress.”

The Extreme Agricultural Mechanics Makeover is an inter-curricular community service project implemented by the Agriculture Education Studies 448 at ISU, and overseen by ISU’s Collegiate FFA, Agricultural Education Club.

The primary focus of AGEDS 448 is on teaching methods for agricultural mechanics. Students in the class review applications submitted by agricultural education programs throughout Iowa and nominated the top three most deserving schools to be presented to the CFFA/Agricultural Education Club to determine the winning school.

The makeover included equipment donations only, no monetary exchanges, Clark said, who added that he seached for that type of support from local companies.

Mike Whittrock

Grants and monetary donations also funded the shop’s transition, Clark said. The Iowa STEM Council sent $12,500; NEW Cooperative Foundation gave $4,000; $1,000 came from Land O’ Lakes Foundation and West Central Foundation donated $500.

Clark said that due to the makeover, he is now able to offer 10 ag-mechanics courses this year; seven of which are new this year.

“We have put the program on a path where it should be,” he said

The ag shop consists of three sections including spaces for a small engines class, welding and a tractor restoration area.

The metals class, Clark said, is busy with organizing and stowing materials. The small engines class has been given 13 new Briggs and Stratton gas engines to work on.

Restoration of an antique tractor, Clark said, will begin this spring.

Clark said the program will attempt to implement CASE (curriculum for agriscience education).

“This is awesome curriculum,” Clark said, ” very science heavy and helps kids put their learning into their own hands.

“My goal for CASE is to convert my old classroom into a lab area for experiments.”

Mike Wittrock, a 17-year old senior at GRHS and agriscience student, is hoping the experience he gains will dovetail with an Army career and beyond.

“The shop was full of junk and was being used as a storage space,” said Wittrock. “Now it is cleaned out and we have all of this space.

“We never had a welder, now we have two; and the small engines, this is the first time I have had the opportunity to do hands on work.”

The main benefit to having a strong ag mechanics program, Clark said, is to provide experience in a technical trade area in hopes to help students make decisions on further educating themselves after high school in a particular trade.

“For so long it has been expected students attend a four-year university and not every kid is made for that,” said Clark. “So I am hoping they can get a chance to learn a technical trade and realize it is something they would like to do and go on to a two-year program.

“There are chances for some high income jobs from these high school opportunities.”

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