Knowledge Area BEPs: Program Planning Principles


Whatever the circumstance, the educator or water resource professional must: analyze the situation; determine the “teachable moment”; and bring whatever communication and teaching skills he or she has to bear on the situation. Human progress is the goal. A tall order! A great idea is not enough to ensure a great program. Enthusiasm and concern must be accompanied by leadership and legwork. Taking an organized approach ensures that you have thought about what you are trying to do and how you will get there. It also provides an opportunity to look at what resources the community already has available, what it needs and what the audience wants and needs. Involving the target audience and other stakeholders in the process can help empower and invigorate community leaders, resource managers, young people, and others who are concerned but do not know how to proceed. Planning also helps ensure that you use human and financial resources wisely and efficiently (Andrews, 1995).

Elements which are addressed as part of outreach planning include:

  • Mission of the hosting organization
  • Networks, partners, and resources,
  • Program design
  • Community needs assessment or situation analysis
  • Goals and objectives
  • Program delivery
  • Evaluation


  1. Use effective instructors and good instructional design
  2. Provide effective management, including: effective marketing, good facility or location, appropriate scheduling, appropriate pricing, customer support
  3. Follow the principles of program planning established in research literature:
    • Planning should be flexible and based on client needs
    • The client system and planning context should be thoroughly analyzed
    • Clients should be involved in the decision-making process of program planning
  4. Create and maintain positive relationships and supportive environments
  5. Pay attention to factors which enhance success of the learning environment:
    • Practical/real-life focus; Monitoring participant reactions and learning; Motivated and prepared participants


Andrews, E., E. Farrell, J. Heimlich, R. Ponzio, K. Warren. 1995. Educating Young People About Water. A Guide to Planning and Evaluation. ERIC/CSMEE, The Ohio State University or Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Environmental Resources Center. Also see

Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. 2010. Best Practices Workbook for Boating, Fishing, and Aquatic Resources Stewardship Education. Alexandria, VA: Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation,

Simmons, B. & E. McCrea. 2004. Nonformal Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence. Washington, D.C.: North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). Also see

Sork, T. J, editor. 1991. Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned: Overcoming Obstacles to Successful Program Planning. In New Directions For Adult And Continuing Education, No. 49, Spring 1991. R. Brockett and A. Knox, editors. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Tetra Tech, Inc. 2001. Getting in Step. A guide for Conducting Watershed Outreach Campaigns, 3rd edition, Nov 2010. U.S. EPA, National Service Center for Environmental Publications,