Imagine the possibilities when more than 40 local provider organizations and teaching artists came together on Saturday, September 14, 2019, to interact face to face with teachers, administrators, and community education advocates across Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto, and Charlotte counties! Sarasota County Schools hosted the fourth annual ED-stravaganza at Suncoast Technical College and created this incredible platform for sharing, connecting, and exploring aspirations for enriching student learning through EdExploreSRQ.
Once again, the event achieved new benchmarks in terms of community outreach and high quality. Watching the event unfold reminded me of days long ago when the circus came to town. As the big top and its spectacle of excitement emerged overnight, communities would flock to experience first-hand the wonder and awe of the talented performers.
ED-stravaganza presents a unique experience for both providers and educators. In one location, 85 representatives from 41 different provider organizations and teaching artists set up vibrant promotional tables with their brochures, displays, and personal opportunities to interact with their “customers.”
As guests arrived, I sensed their enthusiasm and curiosity in learning as much as possible about the varied Explorations offered through EdExploreSRQ. Teachers and administrators eagerly picked up their passports and began their journey to discover the amazing assortment of Explorations available to their students. The eleven demonstrations, seven performances, cast of colorful characters, and yummy food options all made for a sparkling, exceedingly engaging four hours of fun, facts, and conversations.
“Last year, nearly 300 Sarasota students got the opportunity to compete in the 13th annual Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition. EdExploreSRQ was invaluable in making this happen. ED-stravaganza gives Providers a chance to showcase their offerings directly to teachers – it’s the icing on the cake.” – Jack & Kathy Colpas, co-directors Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition
Thirty-one Sarasota County Schools participated in this year’s ED-stravaganza, along with six charter schools, four private schools, and many more representatives from neighboring Manatee, Charlotte, and Desoto Counties. District leaders, principals, school board members, and curriculum specialists added to the mix of genuinely interested participants. Overall, 265 attendees came together to jumpstart another school year promoting experiential learning.
“Experiential learning nurtures students’ sense of wonder and helps them grow more confident, more motivated, and more successful. By connecting students to the world beyond their classrooms, we show them that learning is a way of life.” – Live it, Learn it website
As I staffed the registration table, I personally witnessed and heard compliments from the attendees about the richness of the Explorations and the providers’ expertise. As they carefully dropped their completed Passports into the drawing box, I captured their effervescent enthusiasm and hopefulness to win money for future explorations — generously donated by The Patterson Foundation and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.
Ben Jewell-Plocher, Director of Education at the Sarasota Opera, best summarized the impact of the event:
“The annual ED-stravaganza provides the perfect opportunity to both re-connect with teachers we’ve worked with for multiple years and share programing with those who are unfamiliar with our organization. It can be difficult to cut through the noise (and everyone’s overflowing email inbox) and reach teachers. EdExploreSRQ and ED-stravaganza give us the chance to not only share programing but also form stronger relationships with local educators, see what other organizations provide, and brainstorm ways to collaborate. When I talk with colleagues around the country, everyone is always in awe of the community/schools ecosystem we have in Sarasota. The transparency and ease of access for providers within the schools are truly unique and something that makes me proud to be a member of the Sarasota community.”