New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Enhancing Students Environmental Awarness And Interest in Science: An Experience of Environmental Volunteering

Teresa Afonso, Tavira Science Centre (Portugal)

Paula Vaz, Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente-ARH do Algarve (Portugal)

Ana Baioa, Agrupamento de Escolas EB 2,3 D. Manuel I (Portugal)

Ana Moura, Tavira Science Centre (Portugal)

Rita Borges, Tavira Science Centre (Portugal)


The main goal of the Environmental Volunteer Program is to promote education and public awareness for sustainability and conservation of ecosystems through volunteer campaigns in the Algarve region. This program is promoted by the Portuguese Environment Agency, in partnership with local Ciência Viva Science Centres, Universities and other entities. 

In the past six years, systematic monitoring and evaluation of the water quality of the Algarve rivers and coast has been carried out by hundreds of primary and secondary school students. Freshwater and saltwater benthic macroinvertebrates were used as bioindicators and within each sample the relative frequency of these organisms allowed the evaluation of the water quality in a reasonably simple way in all the studied locations. Field and laboratorial work was conducted by students in collaboration with non-governmental organizations and groups of residents, in an approach that implied transgenerational and multicultural sharing, hence improving the reflection effort on environmental preservation issues. Field work involved the help of academics and specialized technicians; however students could carry out sample collection and further characterization with reasonable autonomy and scientific accuracy, which insured the reliability of the results. From a pedagogical and motivational point of view it was particularly interesting that through this non-formal approach, students could access scientific procedures, namely questioning, hypothetical reasoning, planning and experimental accomplishment, associated with field and laboratory work, data processing and dissemination of results, later compiled by the scientific community.

Furthermore, this citizen science program also involved other environmental volunteer actions carried out in schools and outside the school context, including control strategies for the management of invasive species and the implementation of community gardens in urban areas. These actions are of great value as tools to actively involve and motivate students for

the importance of scientific research, biodiversity and environmental sustainability, through active citizenship.

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