Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 167–182 | Cite as

Changes in Social Capital and Networks: A Study of Community-Based Environmental Management Through a School-Centered Research Program

  • Teresa Thornton
  • Jessica LeahyEmail author


Social network analysis (SNA) is a social science research tool that has not been applied to educational programs. This analysis is critical to documenting the changes in social capital and networks that result from community based K-12 educational collaborations. We review SNA and show an application of this technique in a school-centered, community based environmental monitoring research (CBEMR) program. This CBEMR employs K-12 students, state and local government employees, environmental organization representatives, local businesses, colleges, and community volunteers. As citizen scientists and researchers, collaborators create a database of local groundwater quality to use as a baseline for long-term environmental health management and public education. Past studies have evaluated the reliability of data generated by students acting as scientists, but there have been few studies relating to power dynamics, social capital, and resilience in school-centered CBEMR programs. We use qualitative and quantitative data gathered from a science education program conducted in five states in the northeastern United States. SPSS and NVivo data were derived from semi-structured interviews with thirty-nine participants before and after their participation in the CBEMR. Pajek software was used to determine participant centralities and power brokers within networks. Results indicate that there were statistically significant increases in social capital and resilience in social networks after participation in the school-centered CBEMR program leading to an increased community involvement in environmental health management. Limiting factors to the CBMER were based on the educator/administration relationship.


SNA Social capital Community Groundwater Education 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Forest ResourcesUniversity of MaineOronoUSA
  2. 2.School of Forest ResourcesUniversity of MaineOronoUSA

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