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Virtual chat recap: Watershed education, outreach, and engagement


In this virtual chat, we discussed opportunities and challenges related to watershed education and outreach, exploring how Extension can support our audiences with resources and programming to build local capacity.

As part of aNew Technologies for Agricultural Extension Accelerator Program project, University of Minnesota Extension Educators are building a website, called the Watershed Engagement Programming (WEP) Hub, to support local government (e.g. Soil & Water Conservation District) water resource-related outreach, engagement, and education in Minnesota and beyond. The virtual chat was a great opportunity to exchange ideas, experiences, and resources with colleagues working in water resource outreach and education across the country.

We had a very engaging discussion about the audiences we work with, the programming we are hoping to support, and the outreach/education challenges that many local government units face. We shared some of our favorite resources, talked about what resources are “missing”, discussed evaluation methods and metrics, and had some lively discourse about the role of technical conservation staff in outreach, particularly when many local governments do not have dedicated outreach/education personnel.

Furthermore, as part of our NTAE project, we have created a survey to assess outreach and engagement needs and gather resources for our WEP Hub project. The survey link is here, and we’d love for anyone who is interested in this topic to contribute your ideas. It should take about 20 minutes, but if you have lots to share, it may take longer (although you don’t need to do it all in one sitting; you can stop and come back at any time).

As a teaser, here are some of the questions we posed in the chat. You can read the chat transcript to find where the discussion went from there.

Questions that we asked include:

  • Who is your primary audience for water resource education/outreach (e.g. general public, other water resource professionals such as Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff, environmental decision-makers)?

  • How do you and/or your audiences define success when doing educational programming? What metrics do you use for evaluation and/or reporting?

  • What are the biggest challenges that you (or they, in the case of other water resource professionals) face in terms of educating about watershed issues?

  • Can you describe (or link to) a resource that has worked well for your or your audience’s stakeholders, e.g. a handout, course/program, or website? What made it successful?

  • One request we’ve received from our audience is to help them build skills and confidence related to presentations and other public engagement. What insight could you offer us on working with people that are uncomfortable teaching in public?

  • What are some materials or resources related to watershed science or public engagement that you wish you had?

Chat participants contributed a wealth of insight, expertise, suggestions, and links that you might find useful. Check out the full archive at:

If anyone would like to continue the discussion with us, please reach out! Anne Sawyer ( and Anne Nelson (

U of MN Watershed Engagement Programming Survey:

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This website is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of use at

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