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Winfree Bryant students take on disaster

Kimberly Jordan kjordan@lebanondemocrat.com • Nov 28, 2013 at 6:00 PM

What would happen if a weather situation threatened to break dams along the Tennessee River? 

Some local sixth graders got to experience first-hand what emergency response teams do in these situations with the help of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Students in Margie Hawkins' class at Winfree Bryant Middle School spent most of Tuesday afternoon in a virtual "command center" monitoring all sorts of data involving erosion patterns near dams, areas of high population near dams that were at risk of failing and many other scenarios.

“This was the most amazing learning experience I have ever witnessed," said Hawkins. "I have never seen my students so excited to learn and all 30 of them working so well together using using their math, science, map reading and communication skills. The format of this program makes it so real for them."

A mission commander from UT-Chattanooga was in touch with the students via a computer feed to monitor the various teams' data and their recommended courses of action for each given crisis.

“It was the most stressful thing I have ever done, but it was also the most coolest, funnest thing I have ever done as well,” said student Matthew Shreeve.

“As Safety Manager for the Hydro Team, I learned how stressful it is to be a leader," added Claudia Aucoin. "I now have an idea of how much work these people put into this job. I feel like I will be more successful in my career when I grow older due to the fact that I had this experience!”

The students were divided up into teams including hydro, engineering, geology and rapid response.

According to Hawkins, the geology team was plotting areas of erosion to alert other teams to possible areas where the erosion might cause the waters to rise. The engineering team was in charge of the flood gates at various dams and had to decide when to open various ones to help stabilize water flow.

“This mission was both stressful and exciting. I loved sending reports and releasing the floodgates. But, when I found out the dam I was assigned to monitor broke down and I had to tell the Rapid Response Team to evacuate Chickamauga, it got stressful – but I loved it," said Tony Tilley.

“This was very educating. It prepared us to deal with disasters and it showed us what stress feels like,” added Alex Faircloth.

Lebanon Special School District Director Scott Benson said, "I enjoyed seeing our students working collaboratively on such an engaging project! Good stuff."

Hawkins praised the exercise for what it helped teach her students.

"This is exactly the direction education should be moving in: real-life STEM adventures integrating the use of all subject-area talents. This program is Common Core as it was meant to be.”

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