Start a Program

Today’s youth are not as connected with nature as previous generations. At school and at home, kids do not have the opportunity for free play and are spending less time in nature.

People committed to the conservation of our natural world usually cite early childhood experiences with nature as being critical to shaping their interests. That’s where Creek Freaks comes in.

The "Holding Onto the Green Zone: A Youth Program for the Study and Stewardship of Community Riparian Areas" Leader Guide offers specifics on running a Creek Freaks program. Following are a few tips to get you started.

1. Read the Curriculum and Equipment Lists: To determine whether you want to take on one small project or the full Green Zone program, read the Green Zone Activity Guide.

2. Pick a Creek: Some of the Creek Freaks activities can be conducted indoors. Others are designed for active engagement in local creeks.

  • Find a stream that is easy walking or driving distance from your meeting site.
  • The stream site where you plan to be in the water should be wade-able and have riffles, if possible (areas where water bubbles over small stones).
  • The site should also provide safe access to the stream and offer a variety of stream-side vegetation.

3. Pull Together a Core Group of Adult Volunteers: The Green Zone curriculum suggests running the program using four concurrent stations, which would require an adult volunteer for each station plus a leader for each group of youth and other volunteers to handle general logistics.

To determine how many volunteers you need, you’ll need to determine how you want to run your own Creek Freaks program. The Leader Guide provides guidelines on how much time the activities in each unit may require – 15-20 hours for the full set of activities. Depending on the needs of your group, you may be able to break down activities into smaller units and run them with fewer volunteers.

Volunteer Recruitment: Forty-four percent of American adults volunteer – 66 percent of these monthly or more often. Why? Seventy-one percent of respondents said because they were asked to! Here are a few ideas on people to approach as volunteers for your Creek Freaks program:

  • Stream Ecology Experts: Federal agencies (such as local staff from our partner agencies: Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service), state agencies, Project WET educators, and conservation organizations (like the Izaak Walton League!)
  • Educators: Current and retired teachers, staff from environmental education associations, university staff, parents engaged in home schooling and staff from local home school organizations
  • General Volunteers: Not every person engaged in your project needs to be a conservation or education expert. In fact, the Green Zone guide gives you all the educational information you need. Organizations that can link you with potential volunteers include

    • Community associations and organizations
    • Corporations with volunteer programs
    • Scout troops (leaders and older Scouts), 4-H Clubs, and other youth groups

You can also post volunteer opportunities on Web sites such as

Safety: As with any group that puts youth and adult volunteers together, you should take steps to ensure the safety of the youth involved with the program. The following offer suggestions on steps to follow to ensure a safe environment for your youth.

4. Engage Youth: The Creek Freaks program can be used with both existing youth programs and to build a new one. If you are starting from scratch, the following tips can help you recruit youth and their families to the program:

  • Be Enthusiastic. Your enthusiasm is for the program will carry over into efforts to recruit people to it. If you believe in its value, so will they.

  • Reach Out To Media: Using media resources – newspapers, radio, TV, Web/blogs, social media – to reach new audiences will help you broadcast the program throughout the community. Write a media alert, PSA, or blog posting, depending on your target outreach tool.

  • Partner Up: Ask like-minded organizations – community groups, nature centers, local zoos, Scout troops, 4-H clubs – if you can post a notice in their newsletters. You’ll reach a target audience that will be receptive to your message. Be clear that you are not competing with them for the same audience.

  • Put On a Display: Use hands-on activities from Green Zone guide to demonstrate the project at local community fairs and expos.

5. Register on Creek Freaks Web site: When you are ready with your volunteers, youth, and event site, register your program on the Creek Freaks Web site. Once you a registered as a program leader, you can access additional resources and tips from other program leaders.

6. Hold Your Event(s): Conduct the events you have planned. Encourage the youth in your program to become "stream ambassadors" – advocating for the health of "their" stream.

7. Upload Data/Multimedia to the Web Site: The information and images you gather during your events can help educate other youth and get more people engaged in conservation issues. This Creek Freaks Web site is for you – both program leaders and youth. So please use it!