Over the past several years, Clemson Cooperative Extension has partnered with community associations and state agencies to produce youth water quality education science camp programs on lakes throughout South Carolina.
These 4-H2O programs garner favorable attention from the wider watershed communities. The partnerships establish support for Cooperative Extension among a new clientele.
Each 4-H20 - Pontoon Classroom is produced as an independent community partnership. Most commonly, a local lake association is the community partner with support from state and county agencies.
Implementation of 4-H20 - Pontoon Classroom melds the talents of Cooperative Extension county agents and aquatic ecology specialists with the resources and good will of private citizens who live on or near the large reservoirs in South Carolina.
This team approach not only enhances the educational experience for the children, but also forges strong links between Extension, lake associations, state agencies, children in the programs and, indirectly, to the local schools.
A uniform curriculum is provided for the independent 4-H20 - Pontoon Classroom programs. The local program team adapts and adds to the curriculum to suit local needs and expertise.
Common learning experiences include: exploring the local watershed; water chemistry testing; microscopic identification of invertebrates and algae; making and using Secchi disks; dissolved oxygen and temperature monitoring (including drawing a DO/Temperature profile of a stratified lake); and fish identification.
Individual programs add canoeing, swimming, fishing instruction and/or local field trips. All programs emphasize teaching science information and skills, in the guise of an enjoyable week on the lake or at the coast.
South Carolina's statewide structure for the 4-H20 - Pontoon Classroom program can serve as a model for public-private partnerships for science-intensive, youth water quality education in other states.