GRAFTON— The Taylor County WVU Extension Service is once again offering a program that will help prevent the summer backslide that some students may experience while out of school for the summer, and program organizers are saying it could be more beneficial now than ever.
Serving over 3,000 students across the state, annually, Energy Express is geared toward keeping students engaged in reading throughout the summer, using creative and artistic resources.
With the guidance of volunteers and mentors, participants will work to maintain and improve their reading and comprehension levels and skills.
“Because the school year was cut short, this year’s Energy Express has the potential to be more advantageous for its participants than ever before, as long as parents are willing to help their children,” shared WVU Extension Program Coordinator Agent, John Murray.
In years past, the program has been held at Flemington and Anna Jarvis Elementary Schools however, with the outbreak of COVID-19, organizers have reworked Energy Express to be conducted virtually.
According to WVU Extension Service Site Supervisor, Angela McDaniel, this year’s Energy Express will be offered in several different ways.
She revealed that the application Zoom will be utilized for students to take part in live daily readings.
“We will also be accessing the app Flipgrid, which will allow students to log on and watch the prerecorded readings, and also allows them to record their own responses to the story for further discussion,” McDaniel explained.
In addition, the WVU Extension Service’s YouTube page will also serve as a location for program participants to watch videos of the mentors reading.
While this may be a nontraditional approach to Energy Express, virtual events are becoming the new normal, as they are utilized more every day in order to allow programs, such as this one, to still be conducted without the risks.
Although there are some downfalls to hosting the event virtually, Murray shared that there are also benefits.
“Last year, we had about 30 spots to fill. Holding Energy Express in a virtual manner allows us to exceed our usual enrollment,” he noted.
Recognizing that not everyone has the same access to the internet, McDaniel revealed that those with no or limited access will also be given the same opportunities to participate in the program as those who do.
“For those who aren’t comfortable with using the apps or don’t have sufficient internet access, we are actually going to call them on the phone and read the stories to them, and then we will have the same discussion as we would on the virtual sessions,” she explained. “It is important to us that everyone who is interested, be given the chance to participate.
Not only will students be afforded the opportunity to take part in daily readings, but they will also be given the opportunity to take part in crafting and STEM activities that will be based on that day’s book.
For example, McDaniel shared that one of their first reading will be a book titled “Superheroes Make Mistakes Too.” After reading the book, students will be tasked with designing their own sidekick puppet and will exercise their writing skills creating a description of what type of superhero they would like to be and explain what superpowers they might have.
“Each book will have its own activities so it becomes fun and exciting for the children and really keeps their brains moving,” she commented.
Activities for this year’s Energy Express are being sponsored by PBS, Scholastic and Mylan.
Through these sponsorships, the WVU Extension Service will be providing the necessary materials for each coinciding activity. Materials will be distributed through prearranged pickup or drop off.
Despite being conducted virtually, the program will keep its usual six week duration, kicking off on Monday, June 22 and concluding on Friday, July 31.
Any student entering grades first through sixth in the fall of 2020 is eligible to apply.
Alternately, applications may be printed and dropped off at the Taylor County Extension office or sent through the post to Taylor County Extension Office, 7 Hospital Plaza, Grafton, WV 26354.
For additional information, please call the Taylor County office at 304-265-3303.
“We usually send home applications with students during the last few weeks of school, but for obvious reasons that didn’t happen this year. We have put a lot of time and work into making this happen virtually so that students can get that supplemental interaction they may have missed out on during the last 12 weeks or so of school. It is disheartening that we haven’t had many applicants thus far,” McDaniel voiced. “We are hoping to have more students apply. This is a great program that can really help students.”