Plan: Design Program

Your program design helps answer the central water education question: How do you attract your audience and keep them involved? Fortunately education about water offers an almost unique diversity of education opportunities. Water education can take place anywhere and never has to depend on talking or reading for transfer of information. If people cannot be taken to water, water can be taken to them. These qualities make it easier to help your audience feel connected to the program goals and activities.

Using design (and successful implementation), you can structure ways to meet your program goals. How you design the program will also help to ensure its quality and accessibility.

To design your program, answer questions like: What will your program actually look like? How will water themes be included and who will decide? Should you create a new program or incorporate your goals into an ongoing event? How will you connect to school programs?

You must also decide: How will the intended audience know about the program and how will they participate? How will you ensure program continuation in the future? The answers to all these questions come from the results of your work on assessing community needs, working with partners, and connecting the program to a stable organization. They also come from the people who have been involved in helping set your program goals.

Keep your Logic Model (pdficon, 1 pp., 10KB) handy as you think through the design of your program. A University of Wisconsin on-line course can help you step through the process of using the Logic Model to clarify program design elements,

There are several other excellent resources to help you design your program using the tested strategies. These are listed at the end of this section.

Design components should address: quality, stability, access, connection, program considerations, and marketing.

  • Assure that the initiative relevant to the mission of the agency or organization sponsoring the program.
  • Clearly define the “Educational Purpose,” which includes the program’s mission, goals, and objectives, and assures that all are aligned with each other.
  • Choose a delivery opportunity or strategy that will work best for water education for your “community of interest.”

Check Essential BEPs or target audience research to make sure your learning program will be successful with your target audience. Also see Tools for Teaching.

  • Figure out how you will market the program to target participants.

For marketing tips, see Getting in Step. A Guide for Conducting Watershed Outreach Campaigns, 3rd edition, Nov 2010,

  • Ensure a program of high quality. Plan for program evaluation in the initial stages of planning.
  • Before implementing the program, try it with a subgroup or pilot group.
  • Rely on experienced, well informed, prepared, and ethical staff to develop, implement, and evaluate programs.
  • Involve stakeholders and partnerships at all levels of program development.
  • Choose program content and/or delivery that target the learner and the learner’s situation.
  • Choose program content and/or delivery that are inclusive of all audiences (accessible/available to anyone with an interest in participating).
  • If this program is derived from a pre-existing program, assure that it has been successfully adapted to your particular audience or needs.
  • When the target audience does the planned activities, assure that they will they be able to meet activity objectives and overall program goals.
  • Provide educational opportunities that are frequent and sustained over time. Ensure the program is stable.



Best Practices Workbook for Boating, Fishing, and Aquatic Resources Stewardship Education, available from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation at,

Educating Young People About Water. A Guide to Planning and Evaluation, also available at

Getting in Step. A guide for Conducting Watershed Outreach Campaigns, 3rd edition, Nov 2010 – available from U.S. EPA. For copies of the guide and the companion video, contact the National Service Center for Environmental Publications, 1-800-490-9198.

Nonformal Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence offered by the North American Association for Environmental Education and provides general guidelines for designing, implementing and evaluating an education program.