My name is Jesse Duarte and I am a senior at The University of Arizona. I am a Literacy, Leadership and Learning Program major with a community education focus. I am broadly interested in gaining more experience with informal learning and how I can work towards increasing access to education.
This semester, I am lucky enough to have an internship with The Cooper Center for Environmental Learning here in Tucson, Arizona. The Cooper Center serves both public and private schools in the greater Tucson area and their mission is to create meaningful connections to the Sonoran Desert by having learners visit the center and have hands on experiences in a place completely immersed in nature. While I’m here, I will have the opportunity to lead students on the trails in and around camp and gain informal education experience working directly with the diverse student population of Tucson.
I am working with two wonderful program coordinators who are really helping me to understand what informal learning can do for students who may have had little to no experience with the desert and the life that can be found there. I am learning how the experience at The Cooper Center can be a powerful opportunity for interest driven learning. We are creating a space where students can explore the desert in a safe manner, and they may see an animal or insect there that they’ve never seen before. That one visit to The Cooper Center can spark a student’s lifelong interest in science or the environment. I was initially drawn to The Cooper Center’s approach to make learning about the desert feel more like discovery and, through my experiences so far, I feel wonderful knowing that I’m helping to create a space where students can create deeper connections to the place that surrounds their home.
Being a Learning, Literacy, and Leadership major, our opportunities after graduation can be very broad, so it was important for me to gain some experience working with younger students before I graduated. The Cooper Center is going to give me many opportunities to gain that experience once we welcome back students for in-person events in October. I can develop my skills by working directly with students by leading one of the many activity centers or by shadowing one of the program coordinators as they lead a field trip into the desert. I know I’m going to struggle in the beginning, but I have an amazing support system at the Cooper Center who will recognize my strengths and give me constructive feedback on where I can improve as an informal educator. The type of skills I will gain and the concepts I’m going to learn about during my internship can be used in any educational setting I choose to explore after graduation.
Q. Where are you from?
A. I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona.
Q. What is your favorite desert animal?
A. My favorite animal is the Cactus Wren because it usually doesn’t migrate and needs to find ways to survive and thrive in the desert all year long...I resonate with that.
Q. Any other favorites you would like to mention?
A. My favorite color is blue and if I could only eat pizza for the rest of my life, I would be okay with that!
Q. What are you excited about here at Camp Cooper?
A. I hope to gain more experience working with younger learners and a better understanding of how informal learning works in natural spaces.