Editor's Note: Carlene Judge is the principal of Professional Education Consulting, the firm that conducted the evaluation and created the EdExploreSRQ report.
EdExploreSRQ.com is intended to provide students with explorations - from virtual field trips, in-person experiences, and video conferencing to experts in the classroom, performances, and scientific experiments. These explorations provide hands-on learning environments for students so that they can better grasp and apply complex concepts.
Wrapping up the second year that the platform is available to Sarasota County teachers, The Patterson Foundation asked that we conduct an evaluation to inform EdExplore developers, partners, and users of continuous recommendations for improvement.
A review of the current literature was conducted to validate the effectiveness of teachers implementing "hands-on" instruction as a means of increasing student achievement. Educational research is clear that students who are highly engaged in learning (versus passive learning such as a lecture) achieve more. Experts such as Robert Marzano (2004) recommend that teachers use:
- activities such as hands-on group projects and experiments to make lessons relevant
- lessons "hooked" to student interests such as music and art
- increase student "talk" and interaction through real world experiences such as field trips
In the literature, Marzano explains:
“Field trips enable teachers to expand children’s learning beyond the walls of the classroom into the vast community outside. They provide children with experiences that cannot be duplicated in the school, but are nonetheless an integral part of school instruction. …..a field trip can best be described as a living laboratory in which learning is acquired through active, hands-on experience with the rich resources of the local community.”
In addition, the Raft Resource Area for Teaching stated:
"Hands-on activities rekindle a love of learning and connect abstract concepts to the real world -- while achieving desired educational outcomes."
EdExploreSRQ.com currently includes 34 nonprofit organizations as partners and 25 individual teaching artists through the Arts and Cultural Alliance. A 2.0 EdExploreSRQ.com version was launched in May 2013 and is now more interactive and easier to use by teachers and providers. The array of explorations has improved, with partners offering more free experiences for teachers and explorations that provide options other than field trips.
The Patterson Foundation has continued to "seed" the development of more explorations designed collaboratively between providers and teachers through the EdExploreNEXT grants managed by the Arts and Cultural Alliance. Finally, current explorations are listed all year long so that parents can avail themselves of summer offerings.
Bringing Future Opportunities to Light
Now that EdExploreSRQ.com is beyond its infancy, sustainability will be a challenge and an opportunity. A Community Partnership Agreement was signed by The School Board of Sarasota County in April 2013, which commits the Sarasota County School District, Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Education Foundation of Sarasota County and The Patterson Foundation to sustain and grow EdExploreSRQ.com for the benefit of all Sarasota County students.
The cost of certain explorations limits opportunities, especially for low-income schools and children. The Education Foundation Exploration Grants demonstrated the demand to supplement existing sources for student fees, which were traditionally PTO’s, organizational support and existing grants.
The Education Foundation plans to continue to include exploration funding within its teacher grant programs. In addition, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County committed $500,000 -- $100,000 annually -- over the next five years to fund explorations targeting low-income needs. The Patterson Foundation is providing up to $3 million in matching funds, to be placed into an EdExploreSRQ.com Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, so that the EdExploreSRQ.com initiative will thrive for years to come.
The combination of the Community Partnership Agreement and the endowment plan is almost an unprecedented community commitment of long-term support for an innovative process, working toward accessibility of experiences for all students for years to come.
Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.
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