Teacher & Parent Information

Everything that teachers, parents and other adult volunteers should know to prepare for a visit to Camp Cooper!

Use this page along with our Camp Dos & Don’ts and the page for your chosen program: Earthkeepers, Sun Ship III or Field Trips & Overnights.

Please reach out two weeks before your trip if you’ll need accessibility accommodations.

Our primary activity locations are in desert areas that may not be accessible for all students. These locations can be changed when necessary. 

Our Jojoba and Nopal sleeping cabins, our camp classroom, kitchen and bathrooms are all wheelchair accessible.

All groups need to arrange their own transportation, by bus or otherwise. If you’re new to this, contact us and we can help!

TUSD School Busses

  • Check with your office manager on scheduling – TUSD requires six weeks' notice

  • Submit a written request to your transportation department ASAP

  • Plan to arrive at Camp Cooper at 10 AM (not earlier!) for unloading in the bus bay

  • Use this street address for the camp: 5403 W. Trails End Rd., Tucson, AZ, 85745

  • Double-check your reservation before your trip!

  • Ask your first driver for an ETA on later pick-up and arrival back at school

  • Consider bringing at least one private car for supplies and unexpected needs

Private Vehicles

  • Parking is limited so please carpool and fill each vehicle to capacity

  • Have drivers map to 5403 W. Trails End Rd. and ask everyone to arrive on time

  • Note that our entrance gate is just west of our exit gate (here’s a map)

  • Park in spaces on the north side of the bus bay unless you have special needs

  • For greater accessibility or if you have cumbersome supplies, drive into camp to unload – the road is at the east end of the bay

  • Make sure all students have water bottles, ideally reusable (we have loaners)

  • Collect all signed, completed permission forms: English  | Spanish 

  • If it’s your first trip to Camp Cooper, attend orientation for Earthkeepers, watch our virtual orientation (Field Trips and Campouts) or schedule a visit

For full-day Field Trips or Campouts, you’ll need to assign students to groups. As you normally would, consider classroom dynamics and students strengths and weaknesses. 

You’ll need student groupings for:

  • Morning walks and learning experiences

  • Afternoon Activity Center Rotations, ideally 6-10 per group

  • Cabin assignments, up to 10, boys and girls separate. For cabin assignments, use our cabin names -- Jojoba, Nopal, Mesquite, Palo Verde, Ocotillo, and Cholla -- it’s more fun and easier for everyone involved!

Student name tags will also help your volunteers and our staff:

  • Tags hung around the neck work best

  • Names should be on both sides and large enough to read from a distance

  • Use colors, stickers, cabin names etc. to make tags more useful and fun

  • To help our staff and other visitors, please arrive at 10 AM, not earlier or later
  • We’ll be at the bus bay and parking lot to greet you!

  • Have students carry down their personal items – it gives them a sense of leaving behind their “ordinary world” and embarking on a new experience!

  • Direct all food to the kitchen and stow all personal items in one cabin

For Earthkeepers Programs and Overnights, you have the option to bring your own food or contract with TUSD Food services to serve food on-site.

For all other programs, plan to bring your own food. Most groups bring sack lunches, but we do have grills (bring charcoal) and a kitchen you can use.

  • Bring lunch for a half-day program

  • Bring lunch and afternoon snacks for full-day programs

  • Bring lunch, snacks and dinner for an overnight campout

  • Please use our dishes, cups and utensils -- no need to bring disposables

  • Eat lunch and dinner in the Large Ramada and Amphitheater area

Field Trips and Overnights have half an hour for lunch.  – please plan accordingly if you’d like to use the kitchen or grills (your volunteers can prep during the morning walk so food will be ready in time).

For full-day trips, we also recommend students have a snack in the afternoon. For campouts we recommend an evening meal in the 4 - 6 PM window, after cabin set-up.

You may want to involve students in planning or preparing meals. For Campouts, food prep can become one of the Activity Center Rotations in the afternoon.

For overnight programs, students love a campfire in our giant fire pit! We have just 3 main campfire rules:

  • Bring your own firewood, and don’t allow kids to gather wood from the camp

  • Don’t burn pressed logs, which can release toxic chemicals

  • Leave everything in the pit when done – it can take a few days to cool down

If doing an Overnight or the Earthkeepers program, familiarize yourself with the locations of our 6 sleeping cabins, named for desert plants: Jojoba, Nopal, Mesquite, Palo Verde, Ocotillo and Cholla.

Each cabin can sleep 2 adults and up to 10 students. We highly recommend 2 adults per cabin so that there is always at least 1 adult present. Some things to note:

  • Water bottles are allowed in cabins -- no other food or drink allowed

  • Cabins have no cooling or heat – use our packing checklists to be well prepared

For some kids, your trip will be their first night away from home! For many, it’s their first night in nature, and night noises may be unsettling.

For young campers, suggest that parents send familiar (i.e. comforting!) blankets, PJs, etc. rather than packing something new.

Camp Cooper is exciting! Consider a story to calm kids down before bed. You may want to continue a story started at school. If doing a story:

  • Share copies for volunteers to read in each cabin, rather than in one group

Some parents are reluctant to have their child spend the night “out in the desert.”

If a parent won’t allow a child to spend the night, ask if the child can stay for the day and be picked up before bed. We’re also happy give parents a tour at your request if it would help settle their concerns!

We ask that you clean up after meals or snacks and before leaving camp.

  • Please follow our clean-up checklists

  • Do assign duties to everyone so kids learn responsibility and the importance of taking care of our natural spaces! We’ll inspect all locations before you head out.

A visit to the Cooper Center is a school event! This means:

  • School rules and policies apply throughout, including during transport

  • Teachers are on duty and “at work” for the duration of the trip

  • Student supervision is ultimately a teacher’s responsibility, helped by your volunteers and our staff

Please note that even for activities led by camp staff or your volunteers, teachers should be on hand to help with behavioral issues and to participate in the learning experience for reference once back at school.

Every year, some groups need to shorten or cancel a trip because their volunteers back out at the last minute. Let your volunteers know how much they matter!

  • Adult volunteers are always welcomed at no cost
  • Aim for at least 1 adult per 10 students for Field Trips, 1 per 6 for Campouts
  • Choose assertive, responsible parents for sleeping cabins
  • Assign alternates for Activity Center assignments if possible, just in case

Meet with your volunteers at least a week in advance to help them prepare:

  • Tell them about Camp Cooper and the Cooper Center
  • Go over transportation and schedule logistics
  • Make clear how and when you’ll need their help
  • Review our Camp Dos & Don’ts together
  • Discuss what student behaviors are not OK and how you’ll deal with them
  • Assign Activity Center duties and review lesson plans

When you meet with your volunteers, also go over a few simple rules:

  • No smoking, drinking or pets
  • Long pants and closed toed shoes required (for safety!)
  • No music, streaming video or other distractions from nature
  • Phones should be off during all activities
  • No shade umbrellas or walking sticks unless necessary (they distract students)

If your child is attending Earthkeepers and you will be coming along as a chaperone or volunteer below is information that will assist you in your time at The Cooper Center.

Your presence is very important for the success of the trip. It is important that you meet with your teacher a week or more before the trip to help with planning. During this meeting teachers will also go over much of the information below with you:

  • 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)
  • Rules and expectations you have for your students, your methods of discipline, and the behavior management philosophies that Cooper Center staff will use
  • Cooper Center Rules
  • 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)

Suggested Packing List

Having appropriate clothing, as well as being prepared for staying overnight at the Cooper Center is very important. Click here for the suggested packing list to ensure you and your student are as prepared as possible!

Students should know what to expect and what’s expected of them during their visit! Before your trip, talk to your students about:

  • Camp Cooper and why you’re visiting

  • How we’re an educational center and extension of school

  • Schedules and activities

  • Camp Dos & Don’ts

  • Clean-up and why it matters

  • Packing checklists for what to wear and bring

  • How to behave for safety and fun for all

Students should also know they’ll be walking mile-long trails, stopping for activities along the way. You may want to prepare them by taking them on walks in advance, getting used to the exercise and using their senses for observation!

Problem Behavior

For many kids, being outdoors with friends in a new environment is energizing. Some students may be more loud, active or “rambunctious” than you’re used to.

We encourage you to let small behavioral issues go, but at the same time, we want all our visitors to have a great experience.

Please have a plan for dealing with behavior that could ruin an experience for the larger group. This might mean “time out” with a volunteer or even sending a student home. Let students know beforehand what behaviors will earn more serious consequences.

The Cooper Center for Environmental Learning -- the parent organization of Camp Cooper -- does not provide insurance for injuries during your visit.

  • For teachers and staff, any injury during your visit are work-related as if at school

  • TUSD covers injuries for designated volunteers under workman’s compensation 

  • Student injuries are covered only by school or personal policies

  • For Field Trips, plan to depart at 1 PM (half-day trips) or 4:30 PM (full-day trips)

  • For Campouts, plan to depart at 9:30 AM the next morning

  • For Earthkeepers, plan to depart around 1 PM on the 3rd day

  • If you need to request special arrangements for departures, let us know!

  • Take photos to capture the experience

  • Please don’t give students checklists or assignments during activities we lead

  • Stay positive and try not to complain -- students will follow your lead

  • Contact us at any time -- we’re here to help!