Earthkeepers (4-5)

Earthkeepers – Information for Teachers


EK Logo

Length of Cooper Visit: 3 days and 2 nights

Program Offered: January through March

Grades: 4th and 5th Grades

Max Students: 2 classes

Fee TUSD Schools:  $40/student

Fee Non-TUSD Schools:  $50/student

Program Goal: To understand how energy and materials tie all life together, to experience good feelings when in touch with nature, to make personal lifestyle changes to live more in harmony with the Earth, and to help others do these things.





Below is a more in depth description of this program and what to expect. Certain things are kept secret that only teachers are allowed to know. Therefore, there are more details of pre-visit information as well as during the program that will be provided to teachers. Please read all the way to the bottom to be prepared for your trip. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to Contact Us.

Table of Contents:

Click on any of the links to bring you to that section

  1. Pre-visit Logistics
    1. Trip Registration
    2. Teacher Orientation
    3. Parent Meeting
    4. Week of trip
  2. Cooper Center Experience (3 days, 2 nights)
  3. Clean up and Site Maintenance
  4. Trip Logistics
    1. Teacher Responsibilities
    2. Transportation
    3. Adult Volunteers
    4. Student Expectations
    5. Set up Cabins
    6. Dos and Don’ts
    7. Bedtime
  5. After Trip Logistics
  6. Other Topics
    1. Students’ Website Page
    2. Other Links


Pre-visit Logistics:

There are many more details for Pre-Visit Logistics than just what is listed below. If you are a teacher you may request these details through the Cooper Center Staff by Contacting Us.


Trip Registration:

Earthkeepers is offered January through March each school year with a maximum of 2 classes in each weekly session. If there is only one classroom at your school attending Earthkeepers, or if your group is smaller than 30 students, your field trip group may be paired with a group from another school in a similar situation.  Scheduling for these trips occurs in August and early September with the Registration deadline usually in the first week of September. Spots fill up quickly, so you will want to register as early as possible.

Teacher Orientation:

If you have never done Earthkeepers at the Cooper Center, you must attend an informational Earthkeeper Orientation (see link for available orientations), which is usually held in October. This information session is to acquaint you with the program and facility. Even if you have done Earthkeepers before you are more than welcome to attend the orientation again, as there is much information, and our experience is such that it takes more than one trip to get comfortable with the program. Even if you have facilitated other types of trips to the Cooper Center in the past (Day or Overnight, Sunship III), you are still required to attend the Earthkeepers session.

Parent Meeting:

About a month prior to your trip, you should set up a meeting with all parents/guardians. This is where you identify how each adult volunteer can be useful in the Earthkeepers experience: pre-visit tasks such as food shopping, chaperones during the day and nighttime activities at Cooper, transportation to and from the Center, skills that might help you during your trip (i.e. cooking, fire building), etc. This is also the time to answer questions about Cooper and Earthkeepers itself, easing concerns along the way. Please see the Adult Volunteer section below for more details that you should go over at this meeting. This meeting can also help you decide if you want parents in charge of meals or have TUSD Food Services cater your meals. See link for further details.

Week of trip:

Make sure the week of the trip you do a few things.

  • Confirm which students are coming and get final numbers to the Cooper staff
  • Confirm which adults are coming and make sure they know their jobs
  • If using parent drivers, make list of who is taking which students and items
  • Buy all the food supplies. Remember when buying that you will have to bring all leftovers back with you. We often have extra condiments and we always provide coffee for adults. Please Contact Us to confirm if we have something you might not need to buy.
  • A few days before your trip, you should have students bring in their supplies to make sure that they have the proper gear (i.e. sleeping bags, rain coats, clothes).  If students aren’t prepared, this gives you some time to track down what is needed. See Packing List to confirm.
  • Assign students to Sleeping Cabins. Each cabin sleeps 10 students and 2 chaperones.  If using fewer than all 6 cabins, let Cooper Center staff know if you have preferences as to which cabins are used.


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Cooper Center Experience:

There are many more details for during the trip that teachers need to know. However, we can't give away the secrets! So, if you are a teacher you can request more details of what goes on for the three days at the Cooper Center by Contacting Us.


Sample Schedule of Events: Times are approximate

DAY 1 – Wednesday

10:00 am  Arrival

10:30 am Orientation

12:00 pm  Lunch

12:45 – 6:00 pm Afternoon Activities

6:30 pm  Dinner; Cooper Center Staff Leave

7:00 – 9:00 pm  Teacher-Planned & Led Evening Activities

9:30 pm  Bedtime


DAY 2 – Thursday

7:30 am  Breakfast

8:30 – 11:00 am Morning Activities

11:00 am  Lunch

Noon – 6:00pm Afternoon Activities

6:00 pm  Dinner and Cooper Center Staff Leaves

7:00 – 9:00 pm  Dark Skies Rangers Program

9:30 pm  Bedtime


DAY 3 – Friday

7:30 am  Breakfast

8:30 am – 12:00 pm Morning Activities

12:00 pm  Lunch

12:30 pm Pack and Clean

1:00 pm Group Departure from Cooper


Clean up and site maintenance:

You and your students are responsible for sweeping, picking up trash, taking out the trash and recycling,and cleaning the sleeping cabins, kitchen, bathrooms ramadas, classroom and the grounds. It is easiest if these duties are carried out throughout the entire trip as opposed to waiting until the last day. It is an important lesson to have all students pitch-in with chores. Assign duties to everyone. A Cooper Staff Member will come around and inspect all of these locations to make sure everything is cleaned. Students will be asked to re-do any chores not done properly or completely. Click on the link to see the Cleanup Checklist in both English and Spanish. Notify Cooper Center staff if extra bathroom or kitchen supplies are needed during the trip.


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Trip Logistics:

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Teacher Responsibilities: 

All supervision of students is your responsibility, with the help of field trip volunteers and Cooper Center staff.  A visit to the Cooper Center is a school event. All rules and policies in effect during the school day are in effect during the entire duration of the field trip, including transportation time and overnight.

Parents and others who sign in as volunteers are covered under Workman’s Compensation by TUSD. Work-related injuries that occur at the site are dealt with as they would be at school, and Cooper Center staff are CPR and First Aid trained. Student injuries are not covered except by personal insurance or other policies as they would at school. Teachers are on duty and at work during the duration of the stay.

Generic permission forms in English and Spanish can be found at these links. Bring the Permission Forms with you to the Cooper Center. The completed form will be helpful should an emergency occur.


You must schedule and provide funding for your own transportation. This may be parent vehicles, a private bus, or a school bus. Transportation logistics can be found at this link. In some cases, the Cooper Center can assist with funding for buses. Click here for the Fundraising Checklist to help raise funds and please contact the Cooper Center staff for more information.

Physical Disabilities: 

The Cooper Center can make accommodations to its programs for students and adults with physical disabilities. Please contact the Cooper Center well in advance of your trip to notify them of your needs. Jojoba and Nopal cabins are wheelchair-accessible, as are the kitchen, classroom, bathrooms, and group ramada.

Adult Volunteers:

It is important that you meet with your adult volunteers a week or more before the trip and impress upon them how important they are to the success of the Cooper Center experience. Sadly, each year a few groups must shorten or cancel their trip because adult volunteers back out at the last minute. Adult volunteers need to be properly informed, prepared, and involved in the experience, given specific roles to accomplish, etc.  We recommend at least two adults (not including teachers) during the day and at least one adult per cabin (2 is preferred).  A few weeks prior to your trip, meet with the parents of your students, including the adult volunteers for the trip and inform them of the following:

  • Background information about the Cooper facility
  • Plans for getting to Cooper from school and for cleaning Cooper and returning to school
  • Overview of the Earthkeeper Program goals and schedule (please make sure the adult volunteers don’t give away what is going to happen)
  • Cooper Center Rules
  • Rules and expectations you have for your students, your methods of discipline, and the behavior management philosophies that Cooper Center staff will use
  • Smoking or drinking alcohol is not permitted on TUSD property
  • Long pants and closed toed shoes are required
  • Turn off cell phones during all educational activities
  • Pets are not allowed
  • Please, no shade umbrellas or walking sticks (except if medically necessary) during the experiences in the desert. They interfere with our observations and distract the students.
  • No younger children. Crying babies distract from lessons, paths are not suitable for strollers, and the terrain and desert plants are a hazard to toddlers. The parents also cannot adequately supervise the students if they must tend to a young child.
  • Assign assertive, responsible parents to the sleeping cabins and insist they be with the students any time the students are in the cabins.
  • Make sure they have appropriate clothing and sleeping gear (warm enough- there is no heating in the cabins)
  • Please make sure adults understand that this is not a vacation with their child. We need them to let their child experience the program with as little interference as possible. If possible, it is preferred that parents are separated from their child during activities to allow them to experience it on their own. There will be plenty of time during breaks, meals, and evenings when parents can spend time with their child.
  • Other Earthkeepers-specific duties for the adult will be given to teachers that sign up for the program.


Student Expectations:  


The students should be well aware of what to expect during their visit. This includes background information about the facility and the program, the purpose of this visit, the rules, your expectations of their behavior, cleanup procedures, and what to bring (clothing, bedding, water bottle, hat, sunscreen, etc). Emphasize that Cooper Center is an educational center and the activities are an extension of the school curriculum.

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We want every student in your class to be a part of the Cooper experience. That being said, behavior problems can spoil a trip for everyone. Work out a procedure for sending an uncooperative student back to the center with an adult during activities or, in extreme cases, back to school or home. The permission form will help with contacting parents. Let students know of the type of behavior that will cause them to be sent away from the center.  Students who are challenging in the school setting may thrive in the non-traditional settings of the Cooper Center.

Explain the cleanup procedures and the importance of these chores. Cooper Center has no maintenance or custodial personnel. It is kept clean and tidy by those who use it. Be sure that students understand that everyone participates in cleanup. Responsible outdoor persons always leave the site better than they found it.

Water bottles are mandatory. Please be sure before you leave school that EVERY student has a water bottle. We also have reusable water bottles for sale. We strongly recommend reusable water bottles as they are much more environmentally friendly than disposable and will last the duration of the trip.

Set up Cabins: 

Students will start moving into their cabins immediately after arrival. There are 6 sleeping cabins: Jojoba, Nopal, Mesquite, Palo Verde, Ocotillo, and Cholla. Descriptions of the cabins can be found here. Each cabin sleeps 10 students and 2 adults. We suggest having 2 adults per cabin because there needs to be an adult in the cabin at all times and if in the middle of the night someone needs to use the bathroom you don’t want to have to wake up everyone. We also suggest that the teachers don’t stay in the cabins with the students so that you can be available for any issues during the night. Students need to make sure they will sleep comfortably (i.e. sleeping bags, blankets, sheets); the cabins are not heated or cooled. Food is not allowed in the cabins because it attracts rodents, and rodents will eat through backpacks and gear to get to food. Water is permitted.

Do’s and Don’ts:

The Dos:

  • Bring cameras to capture the experience!
  • Use reusables as a part of your environmental lessons to discourage the use of throwaway items such as plastic bags and bottled water containers.
  • Keep a positive attitude. The students feed off of adults' energy.
  • Let small behavioral things go.
  • Call or email us with any questions or concerns at any time. We are here to help!

The Don’ts:

  • Please don’t give the students any work during the program. Our days are incredibly full and outside work can distract from the experience.
  • Please don’t allow students to make their own trails, especially behind the cabins. We are trying to re-vegetate and it is dangerous.
  • Please don’t complain about the weather. If students overhear you or your volunteers complaining about the “long, hot, cold, wet or tiring walk” it will make the walk less enjoyable for everyone.


After an exciting day, students may need to be calmed down for bedtime. One suggestion is to begin reading a story to the class prior to the trip. It may sound childish, but it is helpful and effective, especially if you use books that share our message (ex. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg, etc.). Give copies of the story to the adults supervising the cabins so they may continue the story before bedtime. There is to be no scary or ghost story telling at any time. Some students have not spent a night away from home/in the desert before and may become frightened by night noises. In addition, we want the students to develop a positive feeling about the outdoors and not be fearful of it.

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After Trip Logistics

The Earthkeeper Program is not just a 3-day program at the Cooper Center. There are tasks students must accomplish back at home and school to become full-fledged Earthkeepers that last until the end of the school year. These details will be given to teachers that sign up for the program.


Other Topics:

Students’ Website Page:

Students have their very own page on our website! They must have the same password that you do to access this page. The reason for this is to make sure the secrets aren’t given away to students who have not been to the Earthkeepers Training Center. Please see E.M.’s Corner to acquaint yourself with the pages we have for the students to help with completion of the program. This page is under construction right now.

Other Links:

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