Play it safe, party animal!

Thought I’d check in with IU’s ever-chatty, sometimes smart-alecky Street Smart party animals to see what they’ve been up to (or should I say, getting into!) this summer.

The Street Smart party animals visit Showalter Fountain in IU Bloomington’s Fine Arts Plaza.

Here’s @HankatIU, a giraffe with a hank-ering for house plants that are edible and the TV show “Jersey Shore,” tweeting some heady safety reminders during the recent heat wave that washed over Bloomington: “Just because we’re young doesn’t mean we’re indestructible. Get plenty of water & sunscreen. Stay cool, party animals!”

@MinnieatIU, a panda who likes traveling and “Twilight,” Ben Stiller and beach volleyball, recently tweeted her appreciation for Indiana’s new smoking ban and IU’s efforts to help students stop the habit. “Glad to hear about smoking ban enforcement. Also glad to hear #IU has resources for students to quit: go.iu.edu/5kg.”

And all seems to be going swimmingly for @GraceatIU, the newest addition to the party-animal scene. She’s just finished going through new student orientation at IU Bloomington, but not before sharing a bird’s eye view of what it’s like to be a new member of a large college campus. Just found out 20-25% of students enter IU undecided on their major. That’s such a relief!”

For those who haven’t yet made their acquaintance, Hank, Minnie and Grace aren’t real (they’re miniature plastic animal figurines) but the issues they’re discussing are. Designed and developed by the creative and interactive teams at IU Communications along with a few clever student interns, they and their fellow four-legged friends are the centerpieces of IU’s recently launched effort to encourage its campus’ communities to look after one another and make safety a priority.

The Street Smart party animals have launched a light, yet simultaneously serious, conversation about issues concerning campus safety, personal and mental health, and making smart social-life decisions, such as calling 9-1-1 in an emergency, deciding on a designated driver before going out, not letting friends walk home alone and what to do if a friend is experiencing symptoms of alcohol poisoning. They’re also directing IU students to helpful campus resources, such as the IU Health Center, IU Police Department, Campus Safety Escort service, Counseling and Psychological Services and continually updated Protect IU website.

These partiers are far from perfect, however. In fact, they’re prone to making some bad decisions and, occasionally, they end up in a potentially perilous situation, as evidenced by these student-produced YouTube videos.

My IU Communications colleagues who do the creative thing for a living would tell you how much time and thought went into this campaign and how determined they were to make sure the Street Smart party animals talked to students about safety in a fun and accessible way that encourages them to listen.

They would also tell you that, as hard as it is to quantify the impact of a campaign centered around prevention, students are increasingly aware of and receptive to the campaign. The Street Smart campaign and its party animals attracted more than 1,000 followers on Twitter in the first two months. During this same period, Street Smart videos were viewed nearly 8,000 times on IU’s YouTube channel.

As for the animals themselves, well, they’re proving to be ubiquitous, spotted (with apologies to Sam, the cheetah not always able to properly pace himself) at freshman orientation, Little 500 and at IU sporting events, among other big IU happenings, and frequently weighing in on today’s most-talked about safety stories (@HankatIU: “Seriously, texting while driving is not cool.”). Word on the street is that we can expect a whole lot of animal chatter when classes start again this fall.

Follow Hank, Minnie, Grace and their fellow Street Smart party animals at http://twitter.com/StreetSmartIU.