This summer, I’ve been meeting with the executive directors of Sarasota’s cultural and science organizations, providing them with a Cultural Connections with Students initiative update and asking for their ideas for next steps in our journey. The initiative began in January 2010 with interviews and guidance from these leaders. Our conversations have continued, especially as we engaged education staff members.
In my July blog post, Checking in with Sarasota cultural and science organization leaders, I promised to follow up and share what I have learned from these meetings. I met with eight leaders of the largest cultural and science organizations. Each leader was generous with his or her time and open in our discussion. I appreciate their time given the breadth of their responsibilities.
During my update, we discussed the launch of EdExploreSRQ.com, an online platform to connect teachers with our area cultural and science experiences. The cultural and science organizations have worked hard with the Sarasota County Schools curriculum department to align programs with the classroom curriculum and post them on this new online tool. Twenty-six organizations posted 77 “explorations” that met the criteria set by the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the Science and Environment Council and the Sarasota County school district.
Following our launch of EdExploreSRQ and the exploration grants for teachers that will be provided by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, there was another exciting announcement. The Patterson Foundation (TPF) issued a $500,000 matching gift for the sustainability of these explorations.
What did I hear during these summer meetings?
New ideas and observations.
- They appreciate the leadership role Superintendent of Sarasota County Schools Lori White, the school board and district staff members have taken in clarifying what is needed for students. New collaboration has resulted from more interaction between the school district and area cultural and science organizations.
- It was suggested a “common language” would help collaboration – each world has its own vernacular.
- They think EdExploreSRQ is a winner. They feel the Education Foundation’s exploration grants to teachers and schools will help incentivize participation in posted experiences on the online platform. They plan to work directly with schools and teachers to support development of their exploration grants. They have some concerns that new exploration grants may supplant existing resources.
- They want to see how other counties, especially Manatee, can benefit from EdExploreSRQ. (Since the website is public and the state benchmarks are the same, they could immediately use it).
- They see more possibilities for using technology to supplement existing programs and add new ones. They think some dedicated sessions around Safari Live would benefit organizations. (The Arts and Cultural Alliance will be conducting information sessions on Safari Live.)
- They think TPF has clout and it should use it to work on sustainability.
- They are all very interested in participating in relevant larger projects around school district priorities – (more to come on this topic in a September).
- They think that TPF support of building the Arts and Cultural Alliance and Science and Environment Council capacities through the initiative work is positive for the community.
- They are interested in sequencing experiences among grade levels and subjects and would be willing to work on it.
- They think there are opportunities to link the initiative work with the Kennedy Center Any Given Child goals and planning.
What are your thoughts and ideas on the feedback from our area cultural and science organization executive directors?