Sprout Up brings environmental education to Davis

Sprout Up, an environmental education program, is now active in Davis elementary schools. The statewide, nonprofit organization is aimed at promoting environmental awareness in first and second graders through hands-on learning.

“[The students] don’t get enough exposure to environmental education. Sprout Up’s program is completely applicable to the science curriculum of living things that we’re required to teach,” said Jeff Nelson, first grade teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary School.

It is currently running an eight-week program in first grade classrooms at Cesar Chavez Elementary. Its first program ran at North Davis Elementary last year. There are 11 active instructors in the program, all of whom are UC Davis students, though the organization, which is based in Santa Barbara, is unaffiliated with the school.

Megan Ryan, the Davis chapter director and a third-year environmental studies and sociology double major, brought the environmental education program to local elementary schools.

“I have huge passion for environmental education,” Ryan said.

She said that the program gives first graders a new excitement to learn.

The organization has seen massive success since its creation in 2009.

“Our mission is to provide college-led environmental education to six through eight-year-old kids in public schools. We try to inspire parents to take action from the knowledge and excitement their children gain,” said Ryland King, Sprout Up’s founder and executive director, and a recent UC Santa Barbara graduate.

Sprout Up is now at various college towns and has made its way to Davis, where it is beginning to show potential in forging a bond between college students and children.
“I think the dynamic of elementary and college students is important and it’s what makes the program successful,” Ryan said.

The curriculum for each classroom throughout California is the same across the state.
“We want to make sure standards are being taught. Everything we teach is enhancing [the curriculum] from an environmental viewpoint … first grade is all about the natural system where they get a greater appreciation of the natural world,” said Sprout Up’s director of operations Tanya Heravian, a UC Santa Barbara graduate.

And indeed, their curriculum does have day-to-day impact.
“Almost every day there is a breakthrough moment … I think the biggest challenge is that these kids are still learning the basics of school and we are trying to pull them in,” Ryan said.

As for the future of Sprout Up in Davis, Ryan feels there is sure to be a continuation of the influence college students can have on young kids.

“It’s really special getting kids excited to learn about science and excited to be in a classroom. The fact that we bring in college students brings a whole new perspective to learning,” Ryan said.

GABRIELLA HAMLETT can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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