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IDEA Center in Warwood Helps Keeps Young Minds Sharp

Photo by Alan Olson Various work and learning spaces fill the room inside the IDEA Room.

WHEELING — A little storefront in Warwood is ready to help students finish out their school year, and is prepping to keep young minds engaged over the summer.

The IDEA Center in Warwood serves as an after-school center for students to come and receive assistance during the week. For the summer, the center is gearing up to help keep the school’s lessons fresh and alive in students’ minds in the July heat.

Helen Bradley operates the center with her sister, Sharon Johnson. Bradley is a teacher with several years of experience in a variety of fields, most recently serving six years as a teacher at Middle Creek Elementary. Johnson brings with her 30 years of childcare experience.

From June 14 to July 22, the Idea Center will be providing a Summer STEAM Program from Mondays to Thursdays during the week. The program will feature STEAM activities — science, technology, engineering, arts, and math — with lots of outdoor activity in each four-hour day.

“Whenever you get into hands-on science, it’s a lot of activity, and then it’ll be summer, so we’ll do it outside,” Bradley said. “We’ve got volcano-making kits, tornado tubes, circuit boards, and it’s just stuff I’ve amassed over the years…

“We have all these things you can utilize to create this stuff, plus circuit materials, and we want to get into coding,” she continued. “I did a little bit of coding when I was teaching, but I have kids that have done coding in their classes, so I thought maybe we could give them more exposure to it, and then develop into some robotics, that would be the plan.”

The summer STEAM program will focus on students in kindergarten through sixth grade, though the Idea Center accepts students up through high school during regular operation.

“The elementary kids, I think, are the ones who really suffered (through the pandemic),” she said. “It’s like you’re just left to their own resources, and for so many of them, it’s hard to get it together.”

The summer program, Bradley hopes, will keep students’ minds sharp and keep them engaged with learning. She hopes to cap the program at around 10 to 12 students.

“I just feel like, if they had a little more exposure, a little more ‘oomph,’ a little more basic skill to help them recoup what they lost from the last year, it would help and give them an edge for the next year,” she said. “That’s the way I taught in my classroom — it was always hands-on stuff, and you always carry that on.”

Bradley added that the IDEA Center is willing to take on students of any age who need private tutoring, including during the summer, if necessary. Bradley said she’s tutored for students at West Virginia Northern Community College and has a broad knowledge base to help pull from to assist students in a variety of subjects.

The IDEA Center opened its doors last year at the Warwood Town Center before relocating to its new home in November. Bradley hopes the Idea Center can continue to grow, and thinks this summer will be a good proof of concept.

“I know this is crazy, because I’m 62 years old, but I’m thinking, we can just grow, you know?” she said, gesturing to the working space. “I’m thinking about a bigger building, having bigger rooms for different subjects, that kind of thing. But right now, we’re just good to be here. I really like the place.”

The IDEA Center is located on W.Va. 2 in Warwood, near the south end of town. They can be reached at 304-905-1506 or on Facebook.

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