PARIS — State Commissioner of Education Stephen Bowen got a sneak peek Thursday morning at the car Oxford Hills Middle School students have been building for the Oxford 250 stock car race this summer. 

Bowen visited the work site at Crazy Horse Racing in Paris as part of his “Promising Practices” tour in SAD 17 in Paris and RSU 10 in Dixfield on Thursday.

Bowen is touring the state to see innovative practices schools are implementing.

The commissioner, who was accompanied by SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts, began the day at the Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway to see some of the nearly 750 middle school students who receive life science and leadership development training at the farm.

From there, he went to Crazy Horse Racing in Paris to witness hands-on learning. Owner Mitch Green and teacher Kyle Morey explained how the race car project began. Green and his wife, Judy, own and operate Race Basics, one of New England’s premiere racing car shops, and operate Crazy Horse Racing. The shop has built some 20 race cars this year.

School officials have said the hands-on learning, along with others at Roberts Preserve and the University of Maine 4-H Camp & Learning Center in Bryant Pond, is the answer for teachers and administrators attempting to engage some students not enthused sitting in a classroom.

Educators say attendance has improved, students are earning A’s, B’s and C’s in their courses and their assessments in math, writing and science because of these programs.

The race car has been named Aspire Higher, the slogan adopted years ago by the Oxford Hills School District for students who dare to accept the challenge of post-secondary aspiration. It will be driven by Oxford Hills High School graduate and local businessman Sam Sessions in the Oxford 250 in July.

“The end product is real for them,” Morey told the commissioner. Students have been working on the race car the past two years and it’s nearly finished. The project combines math, science, engineering, literacy and teamwork in a hands-on experience.

From there the race car shop, the commissioner went to Oxford Hills Middle School and had lunch at Oxford Hills Technical School at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School before leaving for Dixfield.

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