Bill and the Creek Rubbish Monster

21 June 2011 | News story

Communications strategies created by graduate students included products from a stop-action animation for children to a key-ring, board games and posters. From CEC member Hilary Macleod.

A team at The University of Queensland drew inspiration from IUCN’s Love. Not Loss video to create an authentic assessment task for the second year undergraduate Environmental Management and Regional and Town Planning students. “We realised that sometime during their professional career many of our students would be asked to develop a strategy to promote conservation and we wanted to equip them with the knowledge, skills and the experience to do this during their course,” said Dr Ann Peterson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management.

The impetus for the students was a guest lecture delivered by IUCN CEC member Ms Hilary Macleod, who introduced the students to the theoretical concepts and practice of communicating sustainability and conservation messages to formal and non-formal audiences. Ms Macleod illustrated the presentation with examples of successful communication strategies across a wide range of media. The subsequent course assessment task challenged the students to design a communication strategy for a chosen audience. As well as the final product, the students submitted a written rationale that integrated the theory and explained how they arrived at their chosen theme, message, target audience and intended behaviour change. The students had to demonstrate how their approach would work in the context they had chosen.

In a culminating activity the groups presented the communication strategy to their peers and to an “expert” panel in a marketing style ‘pitch’. “We were inspired by the variety of approaches chosen by the students” said Paul Schmidt, PhD Candidate and Teaching Assistant. “The communication strategies ranged from posters and board games through to a complete energy conservation campaign for a local government department”.

Recognising that the simplest innovations can be the most effective, one group incorporated a key-ring measuring tape into their campaign to raise awareness of sustainable fishing practices among international students. Whilst Climate Change – Act Now! featured a vox pop approach to sample students’ thoughts on what they loved about Australia that could be lost through climate change.

So where do Bill, the Creek Rubbish Monster and the “sock eels” come into this? One group taught themselves the stop-motion animation technique to produce a video for primary school students that focused on stream conservation. Another humorous video, Eels, also addressed this issue with the help of their own socks! They may not be the most polished productions but the students were encouraged to take risks with new techniques or technologies.

Tracey Finnegan, one of the students who chose to develop a primary school reader about rubbish in the Pacific Ocean, reflected on the process, “One of the biggest drivers for cultural change is our children’s access to education and internet communication tools. By simplifying the messages, we create equity of understanding across generations, both now and in the future. By giving us the opportunity to express a message within an open format, we have developed a diversity of options for positive change, in creative ways. This can only be of benefit to the environment in the long term!”

For more information, contact Ann Peterson (a.peterson@uq.edu.au)