Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Mission

A key element of our mission at the Cooper Center for Environmental Learning is to provide an inclusive space for all to learn about and care for our environment. We work to foster supportive relationships throughout our community, honoring and valuing the heritage and diverse perspectives of the students, teachers, and families we serve.

Cooper Center Inclusion Statement

edited 10/9/20

 

 

In accordance with our mission, The Cooper Center for Environmental Learning fosters the growth of individuals of all abilities. We will create a respectful learning environment, accommodating all individuals’ needs to expand their knowledge and connection to nature.

Our aspiration as an inclusive environmental learning center is to provide opportunities for learners of all ages and abilities to have safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experiences in the natural world. We will ensure that all learners who come to the Cooper Center will have the agency to participate fully and as independently as possible in our programs alongside their peers. We believe that everyone has the right to access nature and deserves to engage with both natural and human communities while having their needs met.

We recognize that myriad barriers exist which limit some learners from accessing natural spaces and environmental learning opportunities. In order to serve learners of all backgrounds and abilities, the Cooper Center is taking the initiative to remove these barriers, be they physical, institutional, programmatic, or otherwise. We acknowledge that we are always learning and growing, and we are committed to continuous change as we hear from new and different voices about their needs. In order to achieve our vision of becoming an inclusive environmental learning center, we will set both short-term and long-term goals, and follow through on them by taking specific actions.

We want the Cooper Center to be a  place where our diversity is celebrated, everyone feels considered, heard, and respected, and where every learner is capable of having a meaningful natural experience. 

We encourage you to reach out to us with questions, comments, or concerns about our statement, goals, and actions. We acknowledge that there is more to do in order to become inclusive than we have spelled out here or that we may realize at this time.

 

Goals & Actions

 Our Goals and Actions are ever-evolving, as such more details will be provided over time.

  1. Staff training and professional development: To develop, expand, and maintain staff knowledge about working with diverse populations, Cooper staff will continue to search out and attend, as able, professional development opportunities focused on instructional strategies and inclusive practices. We will remainup to date on the most recent research and literature available to us to ensure our programs and instructional approaches are appropriate and accessible.

    • All Cooper Center instructional staff participated in an inclusivity training, “Inclusive Practices in Environmental Learning”  in February of 2020, which taught staff to use Person First language and encouraged staff to challenge any negative, previously held attitudes or beliefs about individuals with disabilities and individuals from different cultural-linguistic backgrounds than their own. This training prepared our staff to make the necessary changes to programs and/or materials to suit the needs of diverse learners.

  2. Improvements to facilities: To the best of our ability, we will advocate and fundraise for improvements to our facilities which do not currently satisfy the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards so that people of all abilities may fully participate in Cooper Center activities. We will ensure that all people feel considered, welcomed, and able to have a memorable experience alongside their peers, families, and community members. 

    • We've been fortunate to receive funding for facilities improvements, beginning with our restroom. This and all projects going forward will incorporate elements of design which allow individuals of any ability to have a comfortable and safe experience at our center.

    • We are creating a trail system map for ease of access to our activities.

    • We met with TUSD maintenance and facility personnel in September 2020 in order to bring our ADA compliance concerns to their attention. We are working with them to create an action plan for facility improvements. 

    • Phase one of our Nature Play Space project will begin in 2020, creating an accessible play area for students of all ages to enjoy. A wheelchair accessible pathway is included in these plans. 

    • Cooper staff have created work orders for door handle improvements for our buildings, a wheelchair accessible water fountain, and a safety railing for our staircase leading into the main trail system. 

  3. Improvements to programming and materials: The Cooper Center currently offers educational programming for students aged preschool through 8th grade, and is developing a program for 9th-12th grade. As we modify current programs and develop new programs, we acknowledge that individuals with disabilities are often left out of outdoor and scientific activities. In an ongoing effort, we will ensure that program materials, old and new, are inclusive of and accomodate all learners.   

    • Our existing programs and their accompanying materials are being reviewed by our staff during the2020-21 school year, while in-person programs are halted by COVID-19, so that accommodations and modifications for  learners with disabilities can and will be made prior to the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

    • We are working with consultants to develop new programs that incorporate accommodations and modifications for individuals with disabilities.

    • We are working to accommodate varying levels of technology access. In the creation of new virtual programming we will include accurate closed captioning and narration of documents. 

  4. Representation of the communities we serve: All members of our community need representation, a means to express themselves, and a way to engage at the Cooper Center. We will establish a collaborative space for discussion with people with disabilities and from different cultural-linguistic backgrounds, which will enable us to make positive changes that better serve all of the students who visit our Center.

    • We strive to have instructional staff who are representative of the communities we serve.

    • We will use hiring practices that make our job opportunities more accessible to people of diverse abilities and backgrounds. 

    • The Cooper Center will work to be more present within the communities of our students and families and in this way create enduring relationships. 

  5. Increased demographic information and understanding: We feel it’s important to work with teachers to obtain more detailed demographic information about students’ needs and abilities. This demographic data will allow us to expand our programming and make it more accessible for all students.

    • The Cooper Center is piloting a Classroom Demographics form with teachers. The data collected on these forms allow our staff to better understand who we are serving, and what we can do to enhance their experience at the Cooper Center.


Additional Resources:

TLS Social Justice Statement

University of Arizona office of diversity and inclusion resources