The nature and scope of Hanford cleanup works both for and against us. The learning curve to participating meaningfully, an aging workforce and ever-pressing schedules are challenges to broadening our reach and involving young people. On the other hand, we are blessed with passionate policy and technical experts who are eager to share their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm. Learning from interviews with mentorship focused orgs, Hanford Challenge is experimenting with the “make-it-fun” maxim by giving folks incentives to show up beyond “nuclear waste cleanup is important.” We hosted our second annual ice cream social in the park on July 12th and used ice cream and fresh berries as a prize for participating in a complex public comment period on the safety culture of Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant. We developed an educational tool: “Say What? A step-by-step guide to crafting a comment you can stand by” and binder system full of information including the source document, related news articles, fact sheets, maps, and sample comments to help people navigate the technical information in a way that allowed for a spectrum of effort, from in-depth research to surface level understanding.
Our fun posters promising free ice cream drew people to Volunteer Park where we greeted people and explained the rules. Everyone had to write a comment in order to get free ice cream. There were multiple binders that people could use as they wished and people on hand to answer questions and explain where information was located. It was impressive to witness many of the 77 people that came by sit in the grass or at a picnic table and read through the information carefully before writing a comment. It was a gorgeous day. We had Frisbee games going, face painting, music, engaging conversations, and of course, free ice cream and fresh local berries. Over half of the people who came were learning about Hanford for the first time and came because of our intriguing posters promising free ice cream. It was by far the most successful comment writing event we have hosted. Of the 77 people who attended, half were young people. Given the typical demographic that attends Hanford-related events it was incredible to have young folks show up in such high numbers. We are going to go with it – continue making Hanford events fun, providing food, and getting the next generation hip to Hanford.
By: Liz Mattson