The Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility’s Wildlife and Industry Together (WAIT) team hosted about 30 Mill Creek Elementary School fifth-graders last week for a Halloween-themed STEM event.
“WAIT allows us to be creative while utilizing our technical expertise and individual skill sets to enrich the local community through outreach,” said Diana Joyner, Westinghouse principal engineer, health physics operations. “We make a difference with these programs and can affect change in students, our community and our employees each time we host an event.”
The day began with a Pre-job Brief with the children, where they prepared for their activities and discussed safety, followed by a presentation on bats and arthropods. Then, students had the opportunity to explore the nature trail, point out the on-site bat houses and animal tracks along the way and choose a pumpkin from a “pumpkin patch” set up beforehand by the WAIT team to paint and decorate.
For lunch, students enjoyed cheeseburgers and hotdogs grilled at the on-site cookhouse and played an educational BINGO game about bats, spiders and insects. Winners received Walmart gift cards, and all children took home their painted pumpkins, candy and snacks, educational materials and a tote bag for trick-or-treating.
This was the second Halloween-themed event WAIT has hosted for the Mill Creek students.
“My favorite part of all WAIT events is the camaraderie of employees, coming together to create a great experience for these kids or to clean up the river or the highway – to do something good and right – often with people we wouldn’t otherwise do business with at Westinghouse,” said Cynthia Logsdon, Westinghouse principal engineer, health physics operations. “I’ve made some of my best friends through WAIT activities. We’re making positive impacts to the community and the environment, and it’s fun.”
In addition to hosting Mill Creek students twice a year, they’ve worked to build Westinghouse’s environmental outreach through events like Keep the Midlands Beautiful’s Adopt-a-Highway and Adopt-a-Waterway. Since WAIT inherited management of the Adopt-a-Highway program in 2016, they’ve collected 416 bags of trash from the three miles of Bluff Road that run in front of the plant. Since the Adopt-a-Waterway program inception in 2013, the WAIT team has cleaned up 140 bags of trash and 72 tires from the Congaree River.
Additionally, team members have collaborated with Women in Nuclear members to participate in Operation Bed Roll, a local program to keep plastic bags out of landfills and improve living conditions for those living with homelessness in the Columbia area.
WAIT is a program of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, in partnership with Duke Power, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the National Wild Turkey Federation. It is designed to encourage corporate landowners to integrate wildlife habitat needs into corporate land management decisions, engage employees in education and participate in community outreach. The Columbia site has been WAIT-certified since 2007.