January 2010 – Present


The Purpose

Research shows experiential learning helps students understand and apply concepts, motivates them, and creates new interests. Launched in 2011, EdExploreSRQ is a website that connects teachers, administrators, and parents to hundreds of curriculum-aligned experiences for students in the Sarasota, Florida, area. Along with The Patterson Foundation, community partners including Sarasota County Schools, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County came together with 34 experience-providing organizations to develop and deliver programs offered through the website.

Strengthening the Impact

Through EdExploreSRQ, The Patterson Foundation supports strengthening the efforts of people, organizations, and communities to enhance and enrich the education experience for Sarasota County students. A formal collaboration among community partners recognizes the region’s vast cultural offerings and ensures EdExploreSRQ will benefit students for years to come.

Since the platform’s creation, 69 organizations have posted more than 250 explorations vetted by Sarasota County Schools for alignment with curriculum standards. More than 60,000 local students have experienced an exploration since EdExploreSRQ’s inception. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County has provided more than $550,000 in grant funding for 346 explorations since 2013 with funding matched by The Patterson Foundation. The Education Foundation also offers grant funding annually and is now focused on the career and college-ready explorations. In 2017–2018, 31 career explorations were funded.


Click on frequently asked questions below to learn more about this initiative...

Why does The Patterson Foundation support this initiative?

Sarasota County students are fortunate to grow up in a region with incredible cultural treasures and innovative science-based experiences. The Patterson Foundation supports strengthening the efforts of people, organizations, and communities to enhance and enrich the education experience for Sarasota County students through EdExploreSRQ.

The initiative was created to honor Dorothy and Jim Patterson — who enjoyed and supported the arts. They felt children should have cultural opportunities because these experiences help students understand and appreciate themselves and others.

What is the EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership and how is it sustaining the initiative?

Adopted in 2013, the Community Partnership Agreement includes Sarasota County Schools, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and The Patterson Foundation. It sets the framework and shared commitments to sustain and continuously improve EdExploreSRQ. Partners meet quarterly.

In 2017, The Community Foundation of Sarasota County extended its annual $100,000 contribution to EdExploreSRQ for an additional five years, which will continue to be matched dollar for dollar by The Patterson Foundation — resulting in a $1 million total gift to sustain this initiative into perpetuity.

How do community partners support EdExploreSRQ?

The partnership organizations promote EdExploreSRQ with their respective members and recommend and implement improvements based on surveys and other feedback along with specific assignments. For example,

  • The Sarasota County Schools District manages and maintains the EdExploreSRQ website, convenes the Community Partnership, and vets the explorations prior to posting. Angela Hartvigsen is the district's EdExploreSRQ manager.
  • The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County manages the Artists in Schools Program of 30 vetted and trained individuals who post explorations on EdExploreSRQ.
  • The Education Foundation of Sarasota County funds explorations through its grant program.
  • The Community Foundation of Sarasota County (CFSC) funds and manages a rolling grant program for explorations. With matching funds from The Patterson Foundation, CFSC has worked with donors to create both named and unrestricted EdExploreSRQ Endowments to support experiential learning in perpetuity.

What impact is EdExploreSRQ making?

2017 – In the 2017 Teacher Survey, there are more teachers who are very familiar with the EdExploreSRQ website. In regard to working and collaborating with EdExploreSRQ  providers, there is a significant increase from 2015 to 2017 in positive teacher responses in all of these areas:
  • Accessibility and ease when working together
  • Adding to students’ understanding of standards/benchmarks
  • EdExploreSRQ helpful in connecting students with community resources
  • Recommend to other teachers
  • EdExploreSRQ seen as a reliable source of information
  • Easier access to grant funding
  • More likely to incorporate EdExploreSRQ into planning lessons

2016 – Provider survey for the 2015–2016 school year shows continued growth in both the number of providers for each school (nine or more) and the total amount of student experiences — nearly 106,000.

2015 – The Community Foundation of Sarasota County's "just-in-time" exploration grants benefit 16,810 students and target low-income students and schools since February 2014.

2015 – EdExploreSRQ presentation is shared at ASCD, a leading national curriculum conference.

2014–2015 – Education Foundation of Sarasota County completes matching program, spends $472,000 on current explorations to benefit 21,000 students (2015), and generates a $131,000 EdExploreSRQ Endowment.

2014 – Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County develops and posts Patriot Plaza explorations.

2014 – EdExploreSRQ communications and marketing plan launches with development and distribution of materials.

2014 – During the fall, EdExploreSRQ reaches 250 explorations from 34 organizations and 30 teaching artists.

2014 – EdExploreSRQ links to more rigorous, relevant Florida Standards through provider/school district workshop sessions.

2014 – Provider survey finds that every Sarasota County public school used seven or more experience providers; 104,000 student experiences.

2014 – Community Foundation of Sarasota County creates "just-in-time" exploration grants with a $100,000, annual five-year commitment.

2013 – EdExploreSRQ evaluation shows increased teacher awareness of the online tool connecting teachers and students to curriculum-aligned community experiences.

2013 – Community Foundation of Sarasota County and The Patterson Foundation announce EdExploreSRQ Endowment Partnership with a $3 million, 2:1 match from The Patterson Foundation to increase exploration access, especially for low-income schools and students.

2013 – EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership Agreement adopted by five partners; partnership meets quarterly to keep EdExploreSRQ vibrant and growing.

2012 – Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County completes Artists in Residency training; 20 teaching artists post explorations on site.

2012 – EdExploreNEXT grants fund 14 new explorations in high-need areas.

2012 – EdExploreSRQ.com 2.0 launches and includes more provider benefits.

2011 – The Patterson Foundation announces it will match up to $500,000 in donations made to the Education Foundation of Sarasota County to support explorations.

2011 – EdExploreSRQ.com, an online platform connecting teachers and students in Sarasota County Schools with curriculum-aligned experiences, launches.

What is the EdExploreSRQ Endowment and why was it created?

Most explorations will be paid for by student fees, PTO support, school discretionary funds, and provider resources. However, The Patterson Foundation found there is a gap that prevents low-income schools and students from participating. The EdExploreSRQ Endowment is intended to address this gap.

New and enhanced explorations will be developed over the coming years. Most of this development will be funded by the provider organization. However, smaller organizations and perhaps new areas of emphasis will need investment. By creating the EdExploreSRQ Endowment, experiential learning will be available in perpetuity.

What is The Patterson Foundation match?

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County committed $500,000 over five years (2013/2014 through 2017/2018) for explorations targeting low-income schools and students.

Along with The Patterson Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County created an EdExploreSRQ Endowment Fund to increase the overall awareness and funding of opportunities offered through EdExploreSRQ.com. The Patterson Foundation designated up to $3 million in matching funds to the EdExploreSRQ Endowment Fund, with a 2:1 match for donations received between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2018.

How can I donate to fund explorations?

Contact the Community Foundation of Sarasota County: (941) 955-3000 or email DonorServices@cfsarasota.org.

How does EdExploreSRQ support the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-level Reading?

In 2018, EdExploreSRQ began to expand its focus on literacy and parent engagement with K–2 explorations to support the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading initiative. For selected explorations, providers and teachers are choosing a content-appropriate book to give children to take home after the exploration. Each book has information for parents about the exploration along with key vocabulary words and links so parents can read along as a teacher. Children are encouraged to complete a Memory Journal and return a postcard to the Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading so that they can receive an additional book.

Who can I contact about the EdExploreSRQ initiative?

For more information, contact initiative consultants Dr. Wendy Katz (wjkatz@gmail.com) or Cindy Balistreri (cbalistreritpf1@gmail.com).

Additional FAQs

Click on frequently asked questions below to learn more about the EdExploreSRQ program in schools...

What are explorations?

Explorations are approved experiences listed on EdExploreSRQ.com. They include theatre, music, dance, visual and digital arts, history, science, and environmental resources offered during the school day throughout the school year. Explorations include on and off-campus experiences, virtual experiences, and artists-in-residence programs offered by community organizations located in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and Desoto counties in Florida. There are more than 250 experiences profiled on the site and each must meet criteria and be approved by the Sarasota County Schools curriculum department.

How do providers submit concepts for explorations to be listed on EdExploreSRQ?

Provider explorations must meet the Sarasota County Schools curriculum department criteria. Learn more about the application process. Community providers may also contact Angela Hartvigsen, EdExploreSRQ Manager, at angela.hartvigsen@sarasotacountyschools.net for more information.

Is EdExploreSRQ supported by research?

Yes. Research shows experiential learning helps students understand and apply concepts. Field trips and hands-on experiences enable teachers to expand children's learning beyond the walls of the classroom into the vast community. They provide children with experiences that cannot be duplicated in 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 experiences with the rich resources of the local community (Marzano, 2004). Community partners gathered baseline information; interviewed educators, organizations, and community leaders; and examined best practices for innovative approaches.

How are educators using EdExploreSRQ?

Exploration providers offer in-service training for teachers about learning through the arts — including science, social studies, and language arts. Teaching videos demonstrating pre-and post-classroom activities help educators imagine ways to effectively use explorations to reach learning outcomes.

What do educators think about EdExploreSRQ?

Here are just a few testimonials:

"One low-achieving student made a poster that said, 'You can save 45 cups of water if you turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth.' Our class received so many positive comments about that particular poster. It really boosted the self-confidence of that student. From then on, this student performed much higher in science and was much more motivated to learn about science."
— Sarah Hu, Bay Haven School of Basics Plus (Mote Marine’s "Estuaries, the Watershed, and Me" exploration)

"They were blown away by the beauty of the masks. So it was a special treat that we caught the display. The masks inspired all the students to draw in pen and ink and create their own compositions. The ceramics teacher did an assignment and his students made Rain-Forest-inspired masks."
— Julie Felts, Booker High School (Selby Gardens’ "Bromeliads, Buds, and Other Botanicals" exploration)

"I have a student that is an attention seeker. During this performance, he was 100-percent engaged in the stage production. He sat quietly and was mesmerized. The only thing he wanted was to share the experience and make sure that I was looking at the performance. It was a beautiful sight!"
— Kathryn Jill Bonacci, Fruitville Elementary School (Sarasota Orchestra’s "Community Survival" exploration)

"The parent of one of my students reported to me that her son was so excited to tell her about the performance that it inspired her to research taking the whole family to the theatre. They were able to find a cost effective, family-friendly performance at the Venice Theatre."
— Theresa Corlett, Garden Elementary School (Venice Theatre’s "The Little Engine That Could Earns Her Whistle" exploration)

"I had a student who really did not like to write. After the Playmakers came to our school, he wanted to write. Every time we had writing time, he took out his story and wrote. When he finished work early, he wrote. He shared it with his friends and me whenever he added something new. The student was open to most suggestions to help his story be better. I was just happy that he wanted to write. It was an amazing change!"
— Andrea Trahan, Taylor Ranch Elementary School (Florida Studio Theatre’s "Inspiring Writers" exploration)

What do students think about EdExploreSRQ?

Learn more in this video about the power of experiential learning for students.

How can parents and family members use EdExploreSRQ?

The EdExploreSRQ website is accessible on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Many organizations have family and summertime programs listed on the website.

When your child is going on an exploration, look it up on EdExploreSRQ beforehand. Discuss what your child might see or do. Since you'll know more about the experience, there are fun activities you can enjoy together. You can also take your child back to the place they visited and let them be your "guide."

Learn more about educational programs offered by organizations throughout our community by searching by provider on EdExploreSRQ.com to find locations, programs, schedules, and other information.

How do I stay informed about EdExploreSRQ activities?

Visit the EdExploreSRQ website to learn more and follow EdExploreSRQ on Facebook for updates.
Learn more about how EdExploreSRQ is transforming learning opportunities
(total time: 3 minutes 52 seconds)

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