Desert EYE for Leaders Mission Statement

lizard beneath an encilia bush

The Desert Environmental Youth Experience (EYE) for Leaders program is presented by the California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC Network) and built on interactions and partnerships with teachers and community collaborators.

Desert EYE for Leaders Mission Statement

Our mission is to inspire, encourage and prepare the diverse youth of southern California communities for a life of environmental responsibility, civic participation, service and leadership by increasing awareness and knowledge of basic ecological principles and by fostering leadership skills. We assist our student groups with the resources they need to design, plan, and implement an environmentally based service-learning project.

Check out this short video that highlights the Desert EYE for Leaders program


Contact Information

Jennifer Eve Futterman,
CREEC Network Region 10 Coordinator

Email Jen at jfutterman at

Call Jen at (760) 808-2288



Desert EYE for Leaders 2016 Kickoff Conference Evaluation Form

Evaluation form image - pencils

If you attended the Desert EYE for Leaders 2016 Kickoff Conference, please fill out this evaluation form. Please fill this out only if you attended the Conference.

Thank you for sharing your feedback! It is very valuable and helps us plan a great event for you each year!


Desert EYE for Leaders Program is an Environmental Youth Experience!

GIS Field Lab at Desert EYE for Leaders Conference

The Desert EYE for Leaders Program brings environmental education and service learning opportunities to students

The Desert EYE, or Environmental Youth Experience for Leaders, is an annual service learning and environmental education program created by CREEC Network Region 10 Coordinator Jennifer Eve Futterman and various community partners. The California Regional Environmental Education Community, or CREEC, is a network for finding environmental education resources in California via the Events Calendar at their website,


The annual Desert EYE for Leaders Program begins with a Kickoff Conference

Each year, students from grades 6 – 12 and their teacher chaperones attend a day long Kickoff Conference which marks the beginning of that year’s program. The Conference begins with ice-breaker activities for the students that promote team building and demonstrate that everyone has something to offer.

Ice Breaker Activity
Students have fun participating in an ice breaker activity that gets them mingling, moving, and smiling.

The ice breaker activities are followed by breakout sessions on topics including service learning, environmental issues, and tips for creating video PSAs for their projects. After a lunch break, the student groups move on to a planning session where they decide what their environmental service learning projects will be and begin thinking about their next steps.

Students at the 2010 Desert EYE for Leaders Conference enjoying a presentation on burrowing owls, which are native to the Coachella Valley. Habitat protection for native species such as the burrowing owl and fringe toed lizard is important especially during periods of high population growth or influx of new residents moving into the area.

After the Conference, student groups work on their projects.

For the next 4 to 5 months after the Kickoff Conference, the student groups work on their environmental service learning projects. Many of the students participating in the Desert EYE for Leaders program are doing so as part of their school’s Eco or Volunteer Clubs, and they spend extra hours after school to work on their project. These projects provide a great opportunity to involve other school clubs as well – for example, the journalism and drama clubs can help with the public awareness aspect of the project, while math, science and horticulture clubs can help with the planning of campus gardens, and so on. There are a myriad of opportunities for hands-on involvement, and this gives students a great introduction to building community partnerships!

Student groups are provided with resources such as small grants to help cover project expenses and access to public and private community partners who can provide donated materials or expert advice as the students carry out their projects. Over the years since the Desert EYE for Leaders program began, students have worked on projects including:

  • creating organic and water efficient demonstration gardens on their campus
  • building raised community garden beds for a retirement community next to their school campus
  • planning and organizing trash cleanup days in their local communities
  • organizing waste stream reduction plans on their school campus
  • creating recycling programs up and running on campus
  • getting solar panels installed at their school campus


Students at DHSAEC created a waste reduction program on their campus that was very successful, reducing the waste stream by 80%!

There are even more great projects than what you see listed here. Perhaps one of the most rewarding outcomes is that the Desert EYE for Leaders program has seen some of its early graduates grow into young adults pursuing careers in environmental sciences! Those graduates have even come back to speak to current program students, giving them inspiration, motivation, and proof that they can do anything they set their sights on!

The Full Circle Celebration wraps up the Desert Eye for Leaders program in Spring

To round off the annual program, student groups and their teachers are brought together for a Full Circle Celebration in spring time. At the Full Circle Celebration students speak about their projects, telling their peers and accompanying adults about what they wanted to accomplish, the challenges they faced, and the results of their efforts. This provides students with a taste of public speaking and a practical exercise in creating a great presentation.

Certificates of recognition and awards for their hard work are presented to students at this time. The student groups have been encouraged to create sustainable and ongoing projects, and sophomores and senior students are inspired to mentor their younger peers in the next years’ programs on how to keep the projects going. For example, seniors that worked on installing a water efficient or organic foods campus garden can give tips to the juniors coming into the program about how to keep the garden project going, how to expand the garden, or to take what they learned to their middle school peers and help advise them on their own campus garden projects.


Full Circle Celebration Field Walk
Students enjoy a field walk during the Full Circle Celebration at the Wildlands Conservancy’s beautiful Whitewater Preserve. They were thrilled to find tadpoles and juvenile frogs during their walk.


Would you like to be involved in this great environmental education and service learning program?

The Desert EYE for Leaders welcomes community partners such as local businesses willing to donate materials (for example garden and building supplies, clipboards, notepads, journals, iPads with iMovie) or funding for student projects, and individuals who can lend expertise and advice to student groups as they carry out their projects (teachers, parents, master gardeners, engineers, environmental sciences professionals).

If you would like to be involved in the Desert EYE for Leaders program please visit the CREEC Network Region 10 web page and contact the Region 10 Coordinator, Jennifer Eve Futterman.

Desert EYE 2016 Project Report Form #1

Woohoo you’ve made it through the Desert EYE for Leaders Conference 2016 and now it’s time time to start your environmental service learning projects!

Please fill out this report form so we can track your project’s progress. We will ask for reports periodically while you work on your projects.

Why Do I Have to Fill Out This Report?

Hopefully, the Desert EYE (Environmental Youth Experience) program will have you considering the possibilities of a future career in environmental sciences, as well as recognizing the importance of serving the community. Should you pursue a career in environmental sciences or the non-profit service sector, filling out reports will come with your job. Good record keeping and reporting are necessary for:

  • documenting a problem or challenge that needs to be met
  • researching solutions to those problems or challenges
  • outlining plans of action to address the problems and challenges
  • documenting progress made in addressing the problems and challenges
  • providing record of your successes, and how those successes have impacted the environment and community affected by the problems and challenges you addressed
  • providing record of what efforts didn’t work, so you can learn from that, add it to your research, and formulate alternative actions that will provide better results
  • demonstrating to public and private funding sources that the programs you are working on are necessary and deserving of their support
  • raising public awareness of the issues you are addressing, and encouraging the public to get involved in helping to solve those issues, and urging their government representatives to support your program’s efforts
  • many more reasons!

The Desert EYE for Leaders program aims to give you this real world experience as you plan and carry out your projects. Filling out this report form will give you some practical experience in stating your project goals, what issue(s) you will be addressing, and what your next steps will be as you carry out your project.

Desert EYE for Leaders 2016 Project Report Form #1

Please fill out this form by February 12, 2016.

Desert EYE 2016 Kickoff Conference Kicks Off to a Great Start!

Desert EYE for Leaders Kickoff Conference water use activity

The Desert EYE – Environmental Youth Experience 2016 got off to a great start with its Kickoff Conference at The Living Desert on Friday, Jan. 29th, 2016. The conference was attended by 30 students and their teachers, representing schools from throughout the CREEC Region 10 -RIMS area. CREEC, the California Regional Environmental Education Community, is the organization that hosts this awesome program that combines service learning with environmental education. The Desert EYE for Leaders program is the brainchild of CREEC’s Region 10 Coordinator, Jen Futterman, who along with various community partners planned and organized the first EYE for Leaders conference in 2007!

In 2016 the Desert EYE for Leaders program is still going strong and introducing environmental studies with a service learning component to students throughout CREEC’s Region 10, which includes Riverside, Inyo, Mojave, and San Bernardino counties.

The focus of this year’s Desert EYE program is Water and California’s Drought, and the activities were all centered around learning about water sources, supply and use. The student projects this year will also be focused on water, and we expect to see some great water efficient demonstration gardens replacing thirsty grass at some of these students’ campuses.

Thank you to all the students and teachers who attended this year’s conference – we look forward to seeing and hearing about your projects!

Want to see your Desert EYE for Leaders Project in a featured blog post? 

Bookmark this page and come back soon to get a link to an online form where you can submit details and links to photos for your projects. Your project will be featured in a blog post on this site! You can share that post link to your friends and families, and even better, to potential community partners who might help fund your project or donate material goods needed to complete it.