About Sees the Day

Director Kirk Cooper brings joy, wonder, enthusiasm, and a unique combination of talents to his leadership responsibilities of Sees the Day Summer Program. Kirk has 30 years experience working with children in a variety of educational settings as an administrator, art teacher, physical education specialist and enrichment class provider. Kirk is currently the Extended Program Director for Prospect Sierra, a K-8 independent school located in El Cerrito, CA.  Kirk is a passionate surfer, snowboarder and soccer player.  Kirk is also the proud parent of 2 young adults that currently attend UCLA and Stanford.

The Story of Sees the Day
Sees the Day Summer Program, A Classroom without Walls, was founded on a simple, guiding principle: to teach kids about our shared community and humanity in an outdoor, natural setting.

The original goal was to create a program that moved beyond traditional summer offerings and instead provided children with weeklong teachings in generosity and altruism. After teaching art and physical education in both public and independent schools, I made a conscious decision to direct my energies toward the revolution occurring in the social sciences, specifically in the field of positive psychology. My challenge was to figure out how I could teach children about feelings like gratitude and kindness. An additional challenge was to introduce them to more advanced concepts like mindfulness, empathy and compassion. I repeatedly asked myself, how do I show children what it means to have a good heart? How do I help young children develop a genuine love and respect for each other? I challenged myself to teach children to be sensitive toward the welfare of others and to develop a belief in the importance of doing good.                                                                                                                                   
I also wanted to create a program that would remind children that we are an integral part of a much larger whole and that each one of us has a personal responsibility to be caretakers for the planet, for each other, and for our relatives in the animal kingdom. I wanted to plant some simple seeds of understanding about how ecosystems and biodiversity work, so children might, in their own way, begin to cultivate a personal practice of maintaining a life-long connection to the earth. 
I quickly learned that we could not just talk about these concepts....

I needed guest educators, ecologists, naturalists, conservationists, storytellers, musicians, and children’s book authors to share their stories and actively model these principles for the children. To accomplish this, I formed partnerships with individuals from labs at U.C. Berkeley and other local educational organizations and institutions, and the Sees the Day Guest Educator Program was born! A Guest Educator might share important science research with us from their laboratory or they may elect to do field work in Tilden Park. A Mystery Guest might bring a cultural offering to the children, facilitating their activities under the trees overlooking the Bay in La Loma Park. 

When booking any guest, my main criteria for any individual or organization is that their practice be creative, positive, and promoting good for all. During the visit, it is my responsibility to ensure that our young minds grasp the big ideas. The guest and I are always careful to keep these teachable moments interactive and make sure the kids’ voices and thoughts are heard. The children always have a lot of questions and so we have a follow-up discussion at the end of the day. We revisit why our guests’ contributions are important and how their contributions to society are making a difference in our individual lives.

Storytelling is another important element of Sees the Day. I rely on stories and personal narratives, both written and oral that resonate with messages of peace and the synchronistic effects of giving and goodness.  These stories also highlight the importance of community service, especially the idea that any act of kindness, large or small, leaves a “heart print.” These heart prints connect us to our shared humanity and to the notion that we feel better in an act of giving. “If you are a giver you are a getter!” In addition, these stories often promote the idea that the more goodness you put into the world, the more you attract back to yourself, your family and your community.

An appreciation for the old ways practiced by indigenous cultures plays another key role in Sees the Day. Painting a picture of what life may have been like for a child three hundred years ago is an important way to illustrate our collective humanity. Native American hunting games, beading, stories, and artifacts remind the children that it was not that long ago that we all relied upon the gifts nature offered to us. Earthworks and other tactile or sensorial earth-based activities are other valuable tools I use to build understanding of these timeless teachings.

Sees the Day Summer Program, A Classroom without Walls has evolved over the years to effectively teach kids about the importance of goodness, kindness, and pure intention. It has been designed to help children become more aware of natural history in relationship to their surroundings and to instill in them a respect and reverence for each other and for all life on earth. Children leave the program as caretakers of the planet, aware that we all have to do our part to preserve, protect, and maintain our shared habitat.