Learning from other groups can help you avoid problems and start off your environmental education program on the right foot. The following groups were inspired to have local citizens, especially youth, learn and feel passion for the environment. Here are some examples of how groups started and are running their education programs:
Musconetcong Watershed Association
In 2001, the Association dedicated to formally create an education program curriculum and integrate it into the budget. Each year, they present four-day programs on water to fifth grade students. They discuss:
- Water cycle, watersheds
- Non-point source pollution, how land use affects water
- Chemical, biological, and visual monitoring
The Association charges the school $130 per class, for all four days; the rest of the operating money comes from the general operating budget.
Pequannock River Coalition
The Coalition created a curriculum that brings aquatic life into fourth and fifth grade classrooms by creating an aquarium with local macroinvertabrates and discussing:
- The local watershed and the aquatic life found in it
- Identifying and sorting sample macroinvertabrates
- Non-point source pollution
Schools are not charged for the program; it is funded solely by grants and donations.
New Jersey Audubon Society
The Society offers a wide variety of education programs which cater to audiences from preschoolers to adults and teachers. They present programs at schools, as well as on Audubon property. Programs are funded through membership support and program fees.
Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association
Stony Brook has been conducting education programs for more than 30 years, with programs geared toward all age groups. The Association offers the following advice:
- Establish goals for education programs and always keep them in mind. A program whose goal is to generate money is not a good goal, but a goal to increase public awareness about your organization or local issues, to connect with children or assist teachers are more sustainable goals.
- Maintain an on-going, internal program assessment. Discuss if your original goals still make sense, be willing to adapt programs as your goals change.
- Obtain feedback from teachers and the public on their satisfaction with the programs, and adapt your program based on the feedback.
- Having programs on your property can be an advantage (less transportation cost, awareness about the organization and local natural resources), and there are insurance issues related to working in parks. Contact local municipal officials to obtain permission.
- When developing or expanding programs, approach schools and ask teachers about their needs. Let the teachers know your organization is looking to help teachers and their curriculum.
- Grants are an important source of funding, but never lose sight of goals when seeking grant opportunities.