Thursday, December 8, 2011

WSU students create a buzz about Hanford among Tri-City youth

By Erika Bronson, Community Outreach & Environmental Education Specialist, Nuclear Waste Program

Working with an English instructor at the Tri-Cities branch of Washington State University (WSU), we tasked his 48 technical communication students with the goal of reaching high school and college students about the Hanford nuclear site cleanup. Usually when students are given more control over the direction of a project, their interest level increases as does the creativity of their solutions. These students didn’t disappoint, single-handedly informing over 600 young Tri-Citians about Hanford.

A Tri-Cities Prep senior wins a WSU frisbee for a correct answer.
Four of the eight groups chose to present Hanford information in history and science classes at four local high schools. In all, they presented to 14 classes, playing Jeopardy-style games and giving away informative handouts, vitrified marbles simulating glassified waste from Hanford tanks, and WSU and Ecology promotional items.

Another group took a risk by holding a public presentation about the various roles of Hanford contractors and the types of people they employ. Knowing the success of their project depended upon attendance at their event, they offered free pizza afterward and extra credit for Hanford High students who stayed throughout. Their sign-in sheet, which was only available to attendees as they exited, had 51 names on it.

Noor Ullah presents to his classmates.
The remaining three groups sought to reach young minds through the Internet. includes historical and cleanup information with quizzes to test users’ comprehension, video interviews with Tri-Party Agency representatives, and resources for teachers and others interested in learning more about Hanford. This group’s phenomenal work also creates an opportunity for other students to maintain and grow this website.

The B Reactor Hanford Facebook group scored when the reactor’s former historical researcher joined and started posting trivia questions. They deserved the boost based on all they did to bring their membership to 84 people. It took six months to get our Hanford Education & Outreach Facebook page to 70 people. Because of this group linking to us, we’re now up to 101! This dedicated team talked to friends, visited the CREHST Museum and shot informative videos to upload, walked Richland’s streets with signs advertising gift card raffles for people joining their group and “liking” our page, and impressed the B Reactor staff. The icing on the cake: 23 lucky Facebook group members were offered a special tour of the B Reactor.

The last group created the original, animated video What’s In Hanford’s Backyard?, overviewing Hanford history and cleanup and focusing on why it matters to young people. Their process included researching the issues, writing a detailed script including the narrator’s lines and the accompanying drawings, recording the voice-over, drawing the animations, and finally editing it all into one fabulous movie.

Next step: Going viral.

These students have far exceeded the course goals and our expectations, navigating difficult rhetorical situations in writing and in real-time and communicating about extremely technical subjects while making them understandable to their audience. They’ve become more skilled at collaboration, document design, public speaking, project management, and plain ol’ problem solving. And, did I mention that they reached over 600 other students in less than a month?!

For more photos of the project, see the album on our Hanford Education & Outreach Facebook page.

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