These are the activities that children will always remember.  These experiences shape what kind of learners our children become.

Dr. Laura Kingsley, Executive Director of Elementary Schools

Recent News


VLOG: What is the EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership?

Posted March 30, 2016 by Angela Hartvigsen

In this month’s installment of our Vlog, EdExploreSRQ manager, Angela Hartvigsen, discusses the EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership, including:

  • The partnership’s origins;
  • Sarasota County Schools staff and the community organizations that comprise the partnership;
  • What are the goals of the partnership and how often it meets; and
  • The different methods the partnership uses to gather feedback from teachers, administrators, Exploration providers, teaching artists and others to continuously enhance and improve EdExploreSRQ.

Total video time: 3 minutes, 50 seconds


Building a community of practice with EdExploreSRQ

Posted February 23, 2016 by Wendy Katz

EdExploreSRQ is building an inspiring community of practice in Sarasota County. A community of practice is defined simply as a community that shares practices: no longer the property or awareness of a few or an obscure representation in the heads of the promoters but rather a familiar practice that is shared and celebrated by many in the education community. (Lave &Wenger, 1991) (Brown & Duguid, 1991) Julian Orr (1990)

Traditionally, new ways of learning are promoted by experts or taught formally. With EdExploreSRQ, we see a new model emerging as a network of users are enthusiastically sharing examples of their successful experiences with the website.

Touted as a powerful resource, EdExplorations listed on the site are vetted by the Sarasota County Curriculum Department. They incorporate experiential learning in authentic contexts whether they are on location, in the classroom virtually or on-site via the talents of 25 local teaching artists. Video exemplars have been developed so teachers can learn from others who have masterfully chosen EdExplorations as integral to their core teaching units.

We see more often now that EdExploreSRQ is embedded within accepted educational norms of “research-based practices.” Word of mouth is expanding the usage within the system and we can document concrete evidence that indeed more teachers are choosing to expose their students to the wide variety of explorations.

Administrators and teachers are fostering the use by writing grants for explorations for individual classrooms and for school-wide initiatives. This year, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County selected 30 classroom grants that included EdExplorations and the award-winning elementary school-wide grant was Lamarque Elementary School that incorporated multiple explorations at various grade levels and leveraged community resources.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County has awarded over $273,000 in grant funding over the past two years impacting over 27,000 students in Sarasota County. Teachers can access appropriate explorations through the Instructional Focus Guides, a highly valued resource. New explorations are being added to the website weekly including Rocketman (rocketry), Hovercraft (application of the scientific method) and Jungle Gardens.

EdExploreSRQ has increased its visibility due to focused targeted marketing efforts. The collective efforts of the EdExploreSRQ Partnership Team (The Patterson Foundation, The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the Sarasota County Schools, The Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida) have taken greater responsibility and ownership for EdExploreSRQ’s prominence.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County proudly plays the video of the EdExploreSRQ story in its lobby. Sarasota County Schools has recently re-established their presence on social media using Facebook and Twitter. In addition, the first Vlog was launched through email and the newsletter continues to gain popularity with new readers.

Schools are replacing marketing materials that they have run out of and the EdExplore stickers seem to be the favorite with younger students. Partners reported recently that it is commonplace when they visit schools to see EdExploreSRQ signage prominently displayed.

“Hands-on learning is vital for students to fully understand the concepts that we teach in the classroom.” – Superintendent Lori White

With the strong support of Superintendent White, teachers rally to select explorations that align with the curriculum standards. They often consider time spent for the preparation and follow-up to explorations “a safe haven” or an alternative to the traditional classroom instruction that must be accomplished in preparation for testing.

It’s a win-win for students as well. They learn required content through authentic experiences that are highly engaging, and also create an indelible impression so they retain information over time. EdExploreSRQ is becoming a “household word” in the education arena in Sarasota County. Lucky kids and teachers!


VLOG: How to Apply for EdExploreSRQ Grants

Posted January 27, 2015 by Angela Hartvigsen

In this first installment of our new monthly Vlog, EdExploreSRQ manager, Angela Hartvigsen, answers questions about grants and other opportunities available to teachers and principals for funding Explorations at their schools. In this month’s edition, you will learn about:

      • Grants available through the Education Foundation and the deadlines for applying;
      • Rolling grants available through the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and how to apply for them;
      • Other funding opportunities available through your schools;
      • Free Explorations and funds available through EdExploreSRQ Providers.

Total video time: 3 minutes, 45 seconds


ASCD shines spotlight on EdExplore

Posted April 13, 2015 by Laurey Stryker

ThumbsUp-for-EdExploreSRQThe annual ASCD conference is a mammoth gathering that convened in Houston this month. Earlier in the year, Wendy Katz submitted a session called EdExplore: Bringing Learning to Life and it was accepted. It was an opportunity to present the EdExplore story to many who have never heard of the concept or who may be interested in the unique model of connecting teachers and students to experiential learning opportunities in a community.

Beyond our session, conference hot topics included:
– Disrupting poverty
– Implementation of the common core
– Latest brain research on learning
– Still Creativity
– Using data-driven, evidence-based decision making

The list isn’t new or surprising but offers connections for The Patterson Foundation, EdExploreSRQ and recent local efforts to work on the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in our community, a movement to ensure all children –especially those from low-income homes — succeed in school by focusing on reading on grade level by the end of third grade.

A majority of U.S. school-age children qualify for free and reduced lunch – research on educational needs for these kids is a front-burner curriculum issue. Experiential learning is a natural approach for children who often lack access to enrichment found in middle-class homes. Language is the key deficit for many low-income kids – engaging experiences is a natural for building vocabulary and context.

Data from our June 2014 EdExplore Provider Survey showed that Title I schools in our community have accessed explorations at 10 or more organizations listed on Research shows these quality enrichment opportunities will pay off in student learning.

ASCD speakers who discussed disrupting poverty’s impact on school success admonished schools to carefully look at fees and costs that limit program access or have a chilling affect for parent-school relationships.

Does your school have supply list? Are there fees for art, band and sports that stress parents and kids? The fees seem small but where $5 can feed a family or $10 pay a utility bill – it’s a mountain for many families.

In Sarasota, the EdExplore Endowment fund, which is supported by a 2:1 match from The Patterson Foundation and contributions from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, is designed to open access to low-income schools and children.

Here are some more highlights from the conference:

Common Core implementation – While political skirmishes continue on the ground, implementation of Common Core is well underway. The specific steps of professional development, parental outreach, impact on children already behind, assessments were key topics. There were lots of examples by communities on strategies and early results.

Learn more from the presentation Optimism in a Common Core World, which includes practical steps at the school level. This PDF also includes specific tools for underachieving students.

Data, data, data – There is so much value from collecting, analyzing and acting based on real data. Links to more learning management tools were all over the Exhibitors’ Hall and in presentations.

Emerging strategies – Educators should prioritize getting back in front of legislative reform or at least resolve to keep up with new legislative reform agendas.

Creativity, critical thinking, community connections, career links – This is definitely the EdExplore space. Sarah Lewis, ASCD keynote speaker and author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure and The Search for Mastery interviewed 150 creatives who shared characteristics and experiences. Early exposure often set the course for her subjects.

Every person we talk to about EdExploreSRQ is impressed by the collaboration and school district leadership. They wonder if their communities are ready. We offer the community self-assessment developed by Wendy Katz as a next step.


EdExploreSRQ, arts education featured at foundation donor event
Posted March 19, 2015 by Laurey Stryker

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County recently shared its arts education work with donors and included EdExploreSRQ in the conversation. Sponsored by SunTrust Foundation, the event kicked off with a welcome from Tom Beames, who shared that musical instruments had given him both confidence and humility.

Susie Bowie, Vice President of Philanthropic Education & Marketing, asked the group to think about an influential arts experience and also suggest a community arts experience every child should have. Whether terrified or inspired, everyone had a vivid memory of their own. However, almost no one could single out just one experience. One person remarked, “They have to have a variety from dance to music to visual arts to theatre – and yes, they have to see performances but also experience it themselves.”

Brian Hersh, leader of Sarasota’s Any Given Child initiative, explained the documented power of the arts across academic subjects as well as the arts themselves. He stressed the links to creativity, critical thinking, self awareness and civic engagement. is a publicly accessible website where arts, cultural and science organizations post vetted “explorations” that bring learning to life across the curriculum. Thirty-four organizations and 30 teaching artists have designed quality, relevant, creative experiences giving teachers some 250 options they can easily search for on this e-harmony-type platform. This animated EdExplore Story explains the journey:

The nice thing about this story is it doesn’t have an ending. Sustainability has always been part of the The Patterson Foundation and our EdExplore partners’ plan. They took action by formal adoption of the EdExplore Community Partnership Agreement, which includes the Sarasota County School Board, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, The Patterson Foundation, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Each party took on responsibilities to maintain and continually improve EdExploreSRQ. The School District convenes the Community Partnership at least quarterly and maintains the website.

Early school and organization surveys found that access, especially for lower income children, is a barrier. The Patterson Foundation and Community Foundation of Sarasota County stepped up by establishing an EdExplore Endowment Fund with a $3 million goal to assure access in perpetuity. The Patterson Foundation is matching donor funds 2:1.

While the endowment grows, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County allocated $100,000 annually for five years for current EdExplore experiences. The Patterson Foundation is matching this $500,000 1:1 in the EdExplore Endowment Fund.

Donors loved the community arts and cultural connections. Of course, they want to know more about making sure all students will always have access to these inspiring and yes, sometimes terrifying experiences.


EdExplore videos offer new resources for teachers

Posted January 19, 2015 by Wendy Katz

Teachers often want to see real examples of how to use new resources before they fully commit to attempting an unfamiliar program or new tool. They might be intrigued by a new teaching resource or model but do not have the time to really delve into the details of how to operationalize for their own use. Teachers typically treasure opportunities to share with their colleagues, but finding time for such interactions is often a barrier due to lack of common planning time or other competing obligations.

Now, educators have the opportunity to view online videos that share how EdExplore will enhance their lessons — from the planning phase to the follow up after their students have experienced one of the explorations offered on the site .

The videos not only capture some of the more popular explorations, such as the Sarasota Ballet and Big Cat Habitat, but are also targeted for specific grade levels and provide exposure to the different types of explorations available. These videos give teachers a chance to understand more deeply why a teacher selected a specific exploration to enhance student learning; watch snippets of the teacher doing a preparatory lesson prior to the actual exploration; and witness the exploration in progress along with student testimonials and reactions. Lastly, the assessment or follow-up is highlighted, which is frequently a forgotten element after participating in an exploration.

How does the teacher ignite student excitement about the unit of study through the exploration?

How does the teacher link the exploration to the Florida Standards in an authentic way?

How does the teacher assess that students have learned the intended outcomes?

The visual images of engaged students, the teacher stories, and the spontaneity of student voices bring the power of the exploration to life for the viewers. Teachers come away with a replicable model to use for their own classes. The connections are clear, the alignment to the Florida Standards is defensible, and teachers can justify using experiential learning as one more high-quality strategy to enrich their teaching.

Take a look for yourself and make your own judgment: EdExplore has proven its worth as an incredible resource for teachers. In the end, our students benefit far more when learning goes beyond the pages of a textbook.

Contact Us

Questions? Comments? Let us hear from you!