For six weeks during the summer, three classrooms at Marlinton Elementary School were transformed into playful landscapes – a campground, an ocean and a prehistoric land complete with volcano and dinosaurs – for the annual Energy Express program.
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade attend the day camp to hone their reading and writing skills through fun activities. They also have a chance to explore their creativity with daily art projects using found objects.
This year, the program was helmed by twin sisters, Melissa Murphy Walker and Michelle Murphy, who have both returned to Pocahontas County as elementary educators.
The sisters were first involved with Energy Express when they were in college and served as mentors. It was an easy transition for both of them to become coordinators of the program, taking into consideration their love of education.
“I think because Melissa and I both have that passion for working with kids, and Energy Express is child centered; it was an easy step for us to take,” Michelle said.
As they talk about the program, they complete each other’s sentences and are animated as they describe how the program has helped the students who are participating.
“You think about the core values,” Melissa began. “Energy Express is trying to center it all about them and…”
“Learning about their community, family and friends,” Michelle finished. “Without Energy Express, some of those kids won’t learn these themes and topics.
Sometimes Energy Express is compared to summer school and the twins explained the difference. Summer school is for students who did not complete the previous year’s classes and is in place to help them stay on grade level. Energy Express is extra curriculum and focuses on reading and writing skills for students who want to overcome a struggle in that area.
The students are all grouped together, as well, so they are learning from their peers. Kindergarten and fifth grade students are learning and creating in the same classroom, leading to both age groups learning from one another.
The mentors this year are Emmalee Dean, Emily Henderson and Maria Workman. The mentors coordinate lessons for the classes and also work with community volunteers who read to the students and spend one-on-one time with them working on their skills.
“I think that’s where we see the improvement, when we have that shared reading,” Melissa said. “It’s one-on-one reading.”
The students also shine when it comes to the art portion of the program.
“You have cookie cutter art projects sometimes, but with Energy Express – we have our found items,” Melissa said. “They take those items – we don’t give them any directions – we just ask them to use their imagination and see what it could be. We want them to use their problem solving skills. Use their creativity. I want to see what they can do, not what everybody else can do. I want to see each student’s personality come out.”
The Energy Express program ends this week with an open house on Friday, July 23, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Marlinton Elementary School.