EdExploreSRQ Passport

EdExploreSRQ: A Celebratory Past, an Alluring Promise for the Future

Posted on May 30, 2018 by Wendy Katz
As another school year nears completion, it is always the perfect time for me to reflect with great pride on the impressive accomplishments of EdExploreSRQ and regain my enthusiasm about the limitless opportunities for its future.

It is difficult to comprehend that EdExploreSRQ has been trailblazing for seven years now. It’s not quite a “household word” among the educators in Sarasota County, but each year, more teachers are learning firsthand or through peers about the power of this online search platform that connects teachers, principals, and parents with experiential learning “Explorations” available throughout the community.

Since the platform’s creation,
  • 69 organizations have posted more than 250 explorations vetted by Sarasota County Schools
  • Community Foundation of Sarasota County has provided more than $550,000 in grant funding for 346 explorations since 2013.
  • The Education Foundation of Sarasota County also offers grant funding annually and is now focused on the career and college ready explorations.

Career Explorations have increased dramatically during the 2017-2018 school year. 582 students participated in these Explorations, a 52% increase from the previous year. 31 explorations took place this year with all middle schools participating. Also, The Education Foundation introduced career explorations to our high schools as a pilot and successfully provided explorations to five schools – VHS, BHS, SHS, RHS, SPHS. We have a total of 23 providers who offer explorations at their site with four additional ones under development.

Too often, auspicious initiatives get a significant boost from foundations or local funders, but the commitment rarely extends beyond the first few years. EdExploreSRQ is fortunate. The Patterson Foundation and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County have changed that narrative by creating an Endowment to ensure funding in perpetuity. For example, this past year, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County extended their annual contribution of $100,000 to EdExploreSRQ for an additional five years, which will be matched dollar for dollar by The Patterson Foundation — resulting in $1 million in additional investments for future generations.

EdExploreSRQ requires on-going review, strategic analysis, and input from its phenomenal partners serving on the EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership Committee lead by Sue Meckler, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Middle Schools, and Angela Hartvigsen, Manager of EdExploreSRQ and Fine Arts Program Specialist

Our latest focus audience is parents: increasing their awareness of EdExploreSRQ and providing them strategies to encourage engagement after participating in an Exploration.

One of the most inspiring EdExploreSRQ connections occurred in collaboration with Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Debra Jacobs, President and CEO of The Patterson Foundation, kindled the idea to leverage K-3 Explorations to maximize the impact to emphasize early literacy skills. We analyzed the ELA (English Language Arts) standards that are currently associated with these Explorations and created a prototype Exploration with Mote Marine and Wilkinson Elementary School kindergarten teachers. The Exploration was crafted to include three science standards and three ELA standards; vocabulary was selected that aligns with the curriculum. Students received a book after the Exploration that mirrors the topic “Become a Scientist.” Parents were encouraged to read it to their child and ask them questions. The book also included a journal to record memories. Additionally, parent materials were available in both English and Spanish. Soon, there will be a YouTube link. If parents are uncomfortable reading, they can listen and read along to the video. Parents will be encouraged to return a postcard as an incentive to receive another free book from Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Additionally, we hope to encourage more providers to create similar K-3 Explorations. We have committed to providing books for two Explorations (one at kindergarten and one at first grade) at all eleven Title I schools in 2018-2019. Workshops for providers and teaching artists are planned to ensure Explorations are aligned to the district priorities and to encourage those offering K-3 Explorations to incorporate ELA standards through strategies to bolster reading skills and parent engagement.

EdExploreSRQ strives to continually support innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives and projects that promote experiential learning.

Jay Asher of Thirteen Reasons Why, writes, “You can't stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret…is to press play.” The future of EdExploreSRQ continues to surprise us – impacting students, teachers, and parents in ways we never envisioned when this work began in 2011. Let’s all press play, as we continue to watch, listen, and learn the power of this amazing resource.

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