A group of students holding up their DIY bouquets.

When it comes to environmental sustainability, long-term success depends on much more than what we do today. Furthermore, it requires a strong investment in future generations. Luckily, there’s a club for NYU students focused on just that. Sprout Up NYU provides students with leadership training and helps them shape the next generation of environmental stewards.

A poster board with a collage of photos showcasing activities and student outings that the NYU club Sprout Up has participated in.
An Introduction to Environmental Science

Sprout Up is a national nonprofit organization with chapters at universities in New York and California. The club places student volunteers inside local public elementary schools to help instruct environmental science courses. However, volunteers don’t need any previous teaching experience to join. The club provides curriculum, basic safety training, and instruction on how to work with and teach children.

“We provide children with an introduction to the field,” says Sprout Up NYU’s program manager Jonathan Wu. “We don’t shame them if they don’t recycle. Instead, we teach them that recycling is an option and how recycling is beneficial. It’s about having an open-minded perspective.”

Student volunteers are placed in small groups of four or five and teach one class a week for eight weeks. Each class covers a specific topic, like recycling, transportation systems, clean energy, or pollution. Additionally, detailed lesson plans and instructions are provided for each session, and club participants attend weekly meetings to connect, review, and regroup. Sprout Up NYU focuses on first- and second-grade students with a curriculum designed specifically for each grade.

“It’s important to teach students early on about these topics,” Jonathan says. “By visiting first and second graders, we’re able to intervene early on in their educational journey to get them thinking about their role in the environment and how they can become involved.”

Two Sprout Up members at a booth during NYU’s club fair engaging with students, offering stickers, and discussing the club’s activities.
Small Commitment, Huge Impact

Club member Maya Magnuson, a first-year Psychology major in the College of Arts and Sciences with minors in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies and Environmental Studies, was hesitant to join Sprout Up during an especially busy semester. However, she quickly discovered that membership brought big benefits without a huge time commitment.

“It only takes an hour and a half out of your week, and there’s a huge payoff,” she said. What’s more, she currently works in a small group that teaches the course in a first grade class at P.S. 140 Nathan Straus in Manhattan. “It’s a great opportunity for students to gain leadership experience. And the kids can be silly, but they’re not judgmental. They’re always super sweet.”

For students interested in getting involved in Sprout Up NYU who don’t have the time or interest in serving as an in-class instructor, the organization also hosts community events, like field trips to local sustainability-operated businesses and visits to the cherry blossom trees in Central Park.

Jonathan estimates that the NYU chapter serves about 130 elementary school students a year, the majority of whom are in traditionally underserved communities. “We’re trying to help limit or close that socioeconomic and educational gap within New York City,” he says.