Kids at Camp Cooper

Thousands of schoolchildren will learn about renewable energy and benefit from updated solar facilities at the Cooper Center for Environmental Learning, thanks to a grant from TEP.

TEP recently donated $25,000 to develop a solar-powered learning resource at the center, also known as Camp Cooper. The center also will incorporate renewable energy instruction into its programs, which more than 3,000 students attend annually.

“I can’t say enough about how exciting it is to have TEP involved at Cooper,” said the center’s Director Colin Waite. “It’s a powerful way to show the community how much TEP is invested in education.”

Operating since 1964, Camp Cooper has often served as an introduction to nature for three generations of local children. The Cooper Center is a “living classroom” providing hands-on learning opportunities during overnight and day trips in the Tucson Mountains.

While most activities are outdoors, the center operates 11 buildings, including an office with a solar panel system – one of the first TUSD sites with a solar demonstration project starting in 1997.

With the new grant, the center plans to update and expand the solar system and infrastructure to improve sustainability on campus. The new equipment will allow the center to showcase renewable energy in activities and materials during field trips. Curriculum will be developed and tested later this spring.

“We look forward to working with the learning center staff to develop a system that supports Camp Cooper’s mission and helps introduce students to the kind of sustainable energy systems that generate an ever-increasing share of the power we provide our community,” said Ted Burhans, TEP’s Director of Emerging Technology and Innovation.

The effort follows a 2018 TEP donation to expand the center’s program for high school students, focusing on atmospheric pollution studies. Starting later this year, high school students will research and develop strategies to improve local air quality under the Rising Vision program.

The Tucson Unified School District owns the site, which has been operated by the University of Arizona College of Education since 2008. The two parties recently signed a 20-year agreement to continue the partnership, allowing the center to better focus on long-term planning.

“I see this donation as a spark to get people excited about new facilities at the Cooper Center,” Waite said. “To have a community leader like TEP investing in Cooper really highlights the value of our program for the community.”

This story is part of our ongoing series highlighting TEP’s philanthropic focus areas: education and environmental stewardship. TEP accepts donation requests for environmental protection programs from April-June and education efforts from July-Sept. Funds come from corporate resources, not customers’ rates. Learn more about donations.

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