A Spotlight on Environmental Education for the Next Generation
Climate change and the reduction of the Earth’s fossil fuels are growing problems that future generations will undoubtedly face. Sprout Up, a nonprofit organization, seeks to provide “environmental education for the next generation” by teaching first and second graders about sustainability, nature, and environmental science.
USF students volunteering for Sprout Up teach one-hour lessons at elementary schools each week, as part of an 11-week long program. The Sprout Up syllabus pairs lessons on topics like pollination, conservation, and oceanography with fun activities that get kids excited about our world.
Senior Kirsten Foster, USF chapter director for Sprout Up, believes it is important to educate younger students about the environment and give them “an experience with nature,” she said. “If kids are able to connect to science, hopefully they will want to take care of [nature] and feel a connection to it.”
During the first class, each student is given a seed to plant and nurture throughout the program. For the following classes, Sprout Up instructors work collaboratively with the first and second grade teachers to teach topics of environmental science. Each Sprout Up instructor assists five students, allowing the each child to fully grasp and connect with the material. Foster indicated that she tutors about seed and bee pollination to first graders. Second graders learn about sustainability and how to reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost.
Every lesson has an associated song or dance to get the students involved, along with a hands-on art or science component. Last week’s lesson was entitled “The Wonderful World of Waste,” and students made art projects using recycled yogurt containers.
“These lessons go beyond just teaching science and teach kids how to help the environment,” Foster said. The children learn so much about sustainability and conservation that they are eager to use their lessons at home by turning off lights or recycling, she said.
Foster loves volunteering with Sprout Up because she feels “there is not enough science, especially environmental science, taught in elementary schools.”
The Sprout Up program was started at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2009. The program has since extended to other UC schools as well as the University of San Francisco.
Today, the chapter at USF has 30 instructors who help teach daily classes at Claire Lilienthal School and Bessie Carmichael School.
Sprout Up is unique because it allows college students the chance to teach youth. “Anyone can do Sprout Up, since the curriculum is already written,” Foster said. While always looking for more instructors, Foster’s main qualification for any new teacher is that they “love kids and love the environment.”
To learn more about the organization, visit http://sproutup.org.
If you are interested in getting involved or donating to the cause, email Kirsten Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org.