Camp Cooper Launches Crowdfunding Campaign
The center, a partnership of the UA College of Education and the Tucson Unified School District, reaches schoolchildren with a unique, hands-on environmental experience.

University Relations - Communications
April 7, 2016

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Camp Cooper focuses on positive hands-on experiences in the natural world and basic ecological understanding.
Camp Cooper focuses on positive hands-on experiences in the natural world and basic ecological understanding.

For more than 50 years, the Cooper Center for Environmental Learning, known to many in southern Arizona as Camp Cooper, has been providing memorable overnight experiences in the Sonoran Desert to elementary and middle school students from across the region. The center is a partnership between the Tucson Unified School District and the University of Arizona's College Of Education.

During April, Camp Cooper is embarking on its second major fundraising campaign for staffing and operations.

While the center receives some operational funding from the college as well as facilities and maintenance funding from TUSD, between $100,000 and $120,000 in community funding is needed annually, said Colin Waite, the center's director. That funding is generated through a combination of grant proposals, support from local foundations and businesses, major gifts from donors and grassroots support from the community.

Last year, in its first major fundraising campaign, the center raised more than $80,000 in four months. Donations included substantial gifts from the Marshall Foundation, the Southwestern Foundation for Education and Historical Preservation, the UA College of Education and TUSD leadership. The center also received more than 150 smaller gifts from supporters. The campaign was a big victory for Camp Cooper as it began its transition to a community-funded center, Waite said.

The grassroots component of this year's fundraising effort began on April 1, when Camp Cooper's crowdfunding campaign went live. The campaign continues through the end of April, with a goal of raising $20,000 or more for operational and staffing costs for the 2016-2017 school year. Donors can access the site online at

The center's programs focus on positive hands-on experiences in the natural world and basic ecological understanding while inspiring each participant to live more lightly on the Earth. More than 3,000 students visit the center annually, and more than 130,000 southern Arizonans have experienced the center's programs to date.

"The Cooper Center is a valuable part of our elementary education program for prospective teachers and our graduate programs in environmental learning," said Ronald W. Marx, dean of the UA College of Education. "More importantly, it serves as a connection between the University and our community, and outreach is an integral part of our college's mission.”

TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sánchez said he believes in the mission of Camp Cooper and in the unique educational opportunities it provides, urging the community to extend its support.

"Camp Cooper provides amazing experiences for students, giving them the opportunity to learn about the desert in the desert, to contemplate the universe by looking up at the night sky, to explore their surroundings and experience their environment with hands-on activities," Sánchez said. "I hope that the Tucson community will support the center so that it can continue to provide our children this beautiful and effective outdoor classroom."

Extra info

Earlier this month the UA Green Fund awarded the Cooper Center $26,000 to be used in providing UA students with opportunities to participate in educational experiences in environmental learning both on the main campus and through community outreach at the Center itself, which is located 20 minutes west of campus in the Tucson Mountains. Each year, the Green Fund awards up to $400,000 to support projects that make the UA a more sustainable place to live, work, and learn.

For more information on the Cooper Center, visit, or the center's Facebook page, Cooper Center for Environmental Learning (Camp Cooper).


Resources for the media

Colin Waite

UA College of Education