SCARBOROUGH — Science teacher Gregory Bither hopes to get his Scarborough High School students to become active members in their community. 

So his Projects in STEM class spent the last few months fixing up abandoned bicycles collected and donated by the Police Department, and then sending them out to blind auction. 

On Tuesday, Bither said, five bikes sold, raising $231 to benefit Operation Hope. Individual bikes went for anywhere from $25-$100, he said.

Operation Hope was started in October 2015 by the Police Department to help Maine adults with substance use disorder find rehabilitation and treatment programs.

Bither said he was simply looking for a way for his class to learn from working on bikes when School Resource Officer Frank Plourd suggested selling the bikes and donating the money to Operation Hope.

“We were able to supply him with some bicycles in serious need of some TLC,” Plourd said Tuesday. “… It’s no secret that the opioid epidemic is far-reaching, including Scarborough. The Operation Hope program came to mind immediately as a worthy cause. A lot of the costs at the beginning of the program were covered with asset-forfeiture money, and (it) has since been funded in part by grants and donations.”

As of Tuesday, Plourd said, Operation Hope has placed more than 350 individuals in treatment.

“We need to give back to the community, and one of the biggest issues in Maine right now is opioid addiction,” Bither said. 

At the same time, students learned skills such as changing a tire, tightening brakes, fixing gears and replacing chains. 

“Some kids hadn’t picked up a tool in their life,” Bither said. “… It’s a fun way for kids to learn science.”

Sawyer McFadden, who last Friday afternoon was removing rust from a bike, said the project was both fun and rewarding.

“I’ve never been into anything mechanical and I took STEM for a technology class, but it’s really been so much fun,” McFadden said. “I’ve learned so much about bikes. I didn’t know how to take off a tire or tighten brakes, and I learned all of that through this experience.” 

“It’s cool to start with bikes that were basically broken and now see them functioning,” McFadden’s classmate, Will Pulvino, added.

But the practical lessons the unit taught his students were secondary, Bither said, to the ethical significance. 

“It’s good for them to get in the habit of (helping others),” Bither said. “Just for them to learn there’s more to life than taking.”

Many students said they had heard of Operation Hope prior to the project, but weren’t aware of the population it served. 

McFadden said it felt good to know that the work they were putting in to the project would not only benefit those buying the bikes, but those with opioid addiction, too. 

“This was a fun project and it’s even better that we’re using the money in a good way,” she said. 

Freshman Quentin Wu added that it’s not often students see a noticeable impact on the community as an outcome of a class assignment. 

Bither said he hopes the nascent Projects in STEM class will continue doing Bikes for Hope auctions on a semi-regular basis. 

“It’s important for kids to learn that they might have a great future,” he said, “but part of their responsibility is to help out those who might not.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Scarborough High School student Sawyer McFadden cleans the rust off a bicycle in a Projects in STEM class Jan. 18 that raised money for Operation Hope by repairing abandoned bikes and selling them. “This was a fun project and it’s even better that we’re using the money in a good way,” she said.

Students repair abandoned bicycles in teacher Gregory Bither’s Projects in STEM class at Scarborough High School, before auctioning off the bikes for Operation Hope. “It’s good for them to get in the habit of (helping others),” Bither said. “Just for them to learn there’s more to life than taking.”

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