A citizen science water quality monitoring project’s contribution to environmental education, social learning and adaptive management
This research aimed to report on how a citizen science community-based water qualitymonitoring project involving Physical Science pre-service teachers and Grade 10 Physical Science learners contributed to environmental education, social learning and adaptive management of water sources. These participants took part in project-based learning used for research purposes over a two-year period, namely from February 2015 to October 2016. The research aimed to determine the experiences of the different groups of participants in a water quality-monitoring project which focused on the measurement of physical variables in water such as pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, percentage saturation, biochemical oxygen demand, the concentration of nitrite, nitrate and chloride ions, hardness, turbidity and E coli levels. Objectives of the research included the following: (i) to define and clarify the concepts environmental education, social learning, project-based teaching, water quality monitoring, community-based monitoring and adaptive management at educational institutions with reference to the context of a citizen science community-based water monitoring project at the NWU (Vaal Campus); (ii) to understand how the relation between campus community and natural environment should be understood; (iii) to investigate how environmental education, in the form of citizen science, could be integrated and presented in teaching and learning of pre-service teacher education and Grade 10 Physical Science using project-based teaching to advance environmental learning; (iv) to explore how participation in a community-based water-monitoring project could contribute to making proactive suggestions in developing a citizen science management framework for education institutions; (v) to understand how participation in a community-based water monitoring project that includes a university campus and a high school science class could contribute towards developing and implementing a three-tiered citizen science management systems framework for education institutions; (vi) to identify the challenges and advantages of performing a community-based watermonitoring project to enhance environmental education and social learning at education institutions, and (vii) to draw conclusions and make recommendations to promote citizen science water quality monitoring and management at teaching and learning institutions. Data were collected in the form of: (i) a literature review and document analysis, which aided to explore the concepts central to the study, namely citizen science; environmental education; social learning, project-based teaching, water quality monitoring, community-based monitoring and adaptive management of water sources; (ii) open-ended questions to both pre-service teachers and Grade 10 learners; (iii) interviews with other relevant role players like Rand Water officials, campus and technical management personnel and GCI members; (iv) a journal kept by the researcher and (v) quantitative measurement of variables in water like pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, percentage saturation, biochemical oxygen demand, the concentration of nitrite, nitrate and chloride ions, hardness, turbidity and E coli levels; as well as (vi) photographs of scenarios at campus dams and the Vaal River to indicate the water quality status. Qualitative data collected through open-ended questions were analysed by using the Atlas ti data programme. Quantitative data collected through measurement of water quality variables were analysed through descriptive and inferential statistical procedures. The research findings include: the benefits of the social nature of project-based learning for advancing opportunities for environmental education and environmental awareness when community members such as pre-service teachers and school learners engage in community-based water monitoring activities; knowledge acquisition about the current water quality status of campus dams and the bordering Vaal River; and adaptive management proposals to manage NWU“s (Vaal Campus) dams as part of the Vaal catchment area. In addition, the participants“ and the researcher“s reflections on their involvement in a real life water monitoring opportunity and relevant literature reviews, guided the construction of a project framework. A three-tiered systems framework was also compiled to serve as a guideline for educational institutions to support environmental education through citizen science.