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 web-based program that connects teachers, administrators, and parents to hundreds of curriculum-aligned experiences (“Explorations”) for students in Sarasota County Schools. Along with The Patterson Foundation, community partners for the program include Sarasota County Schools, Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, and Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Each has come together with a host of experience-providing organizations and teaching artists to develop and deliver programs offered through EdExploreSRQ.


Strengthening the Impact

Since the platform’s creation, 69 organizations have posted more than 250 explorations vetted by Sarasota County Schools for alignment with curriculum standards. 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.

Since its inception, EdExploreSRQ has provided more than 300,000 student experiences for children in grades K-12, covering content that includes arts, language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, careers and technical education, and more. Today, nearly 70 provider organizations and teaching artists have more than 250 Explorations posted on the site. All have been vetted by Sarasota County Schools for alignment with curriculum standards.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County has provided more than $649.000 in grant funding for 461 explorations since 2013 with funding matched by The Patterson Foundation. The Education Foundation also offers grant funding annually and is now focused on career explorations. Twenty-three local businesses and organizations offer these Explorations.


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 EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership sets the framework and shared commitments needed to sustain and continuously improve the program. Community Partners include Sarasota County Schools, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and The Patterson Foundation. Members of the partnership meet quarterly to analyze and provide feedback on the program and its initiatives.

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 the EdExploreSRQ initiative into perpetuity.

How do community partners support EdExploreSRQ?

Members of the EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership promote the program with their respective members and recommend and implement improvements based on surveys and other feedback, along with specific assignments. For example:

  • Sarasota County Schools manages and maintains the EdExploreSRQ website, convenes Community Partnership quarterly meetings, and vets the Explorations for alignment with state benchmarks and educational standard prior to posting. Angela Hartvigsen is the school district's EdExploreSRQ manager.

  • Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County manages the Artists in Schools Program, which consists of nearly a dozen vetted and specially-trained teaching artists who provide Explorations through EdExploreSRQ.

  • Education Foundation of Sarasota County provides funding for Explorations through its annual grant program and also supports a series of Career Explorations for students.

  • Community Foundation of Sarasota County (CFSC) funds and manages a rolling grant program for Explorations. With matching funds from The Patterson Foundation, the CFCS has worked with donors to create both named and unrestricted EdExploreSRQ Endowments to support the program and its experiential learning initiatives into perpetuity.

What impact is EdExploreSRQ making?

2018 – The 3rd Annual Ed-Stravaganza attracted 200 teachers and more than 75 provider representatives, including Patriot Plaza and Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. In addition to the exhibitors, there were 14 performance/workshops offered.

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 EdExploreSRQ Explorations are paid for by student fees, PTO support, school discretionary funds, and provider resources. However, early on in the program’s history, The Patterson Foundation discovered that there was a gap in EdExploreSRQ participation among schools that serve children from lower-income families. 

To address this shortcoming, The Patterson Foundation established the EdExploreSRQ Endowment. This endowment provides grants to ensure that all children in Sarasota County Schools are able to fully benefit from EdExploreSRQ, even if the students come from a school with limited resources.

Thanks to generous support from The Patterson Foundation and Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the endowment will continue to provide funding for EdExploreSRQ as the program grows and expands in the years to come.

What is The Patterson Foundation match?

In 2013, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County committed $500,000 over a five-year period to help fund Explorations for K-12 public and public charter schools throughout Sarasota County. Special emphasis was placed on making funds available to schools and teachers serving low-income students. This amount was matched 1:1 by The Patterson Foundation for a total commitment of $1 million during the five years beginning with the 2013/2014 school year and ending in 2017/2018.

Encouraged by the success of the original initiative, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and The Patterson Foundation each renewed their commitment to EdExploreSRQ in 2018 for an additional $1 million during the five-year period beginning with the 2018/2019 school year extending through 2022/2023.

Along with The Patterson Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County also 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.

What is the EdExploreSRQ Goes WILD for Literacy program and how does it support the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-level Reading?

In 2018, EdExploreSRQ began to expand its focus on literacy and parent engagement with K–1 Explorations designed to support the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Entitled, EdExploreSRQ Goes WILD for Literacy, the program allows providers and teachers to select a content-appropriate book for students to take home after the Exploration. Each book has information about the Exploration, along with key vocabulary words and links so parents can read along and explore with their children.

Students involved in EdExploreSRQ Goes WILD for Literacy Explorations 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 following their learning experience.

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 FAQ's

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

What are EdExploreSRQ Explorations?

Explorations are active learning experiences available through EdExploreSRQ. They include on and off-campus experiences, virtual experiences, and artist-in-residence programs offered by provider organizations and teaching artists located in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and Desoto counties. All have been approved by Sarasota County Schools’ curriculum staff to meet Florida educational benchmarks and standards for grades K-12.

They include subjects ranging from theatre, music, dance, visual and language arts to history, social studies, science, mathematics, physical education, health, and careers and technical education. In total, there are currently more than 250 Explorations involving nearly 70 different provider organizations and teaching artists included on the EdExploreSRQ website.

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

All Explorations included on the EdExploreSRQ website must meet Florida educational benchmarks and standards for grades K-12 and be approved by the Sarasota County Schools curriculum department prior to publishing. To learn more about the application process, community providers and teaching artists are encouraged to contact EdExploreSRQ Manager Angela Hartvigsen at angela.hartvigsen@sarasotacountyschools.net.

Is EdExploreSRQ supported by research?

Yes. Research shows that active, experiential learning helps students understand and apply concepts better and retain information longer. Through both on and off-campus hands-on learning experiences, EdExploreSRQ enables teachers to expand their students’ learning and understanding beyond the walls of the classroom and into the local community. They provide students with real-world learning opportunities that while difficult to duplicate in the traditional classroom are nonetheless an integral part of school instruction. They also allow students to interact with their environment and the world around them in ways that many of them may never have experienced. 

As the notable educational researcher Robert Marzano states, such opportunities 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.

How are educators using EdExploreSRQ?

EdExploreSRQ allows teachers in Sarasota County Schools to expand the horizons of their students and engage them in the learning process like never before. Despite the wealth of arts, culture, science and environmental resources available in our area, many students have never had the opportunity to visit a local museum, attend a live theatre or musical performance, or explore the wonders of our local beaches and waterways. Through EdExploreSRQ, these learning experiences are being brought to life for students in our local schools each and every day.

Through in-service training and workshops that EdExploreSRQ and its provider organizations and teaching artists host for educators, local teachers are also given access to expanded resources and the opportunity to learn new approaches for engaging their students. Pre- and post-classroom activities that are part of the program also help educators imagine ways to effectively use explorations to achieve learning outcomes for their students.

What do educators think about EdExploreSRQ?

EdExploreSRQ allows teachers to engage their students in the learning process in ways that are both new and dynamic. Consider the following 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% 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 about the power of experiential learning for students through these videos.

How can parents and family members use EdExploreSRQ?

The EdExploreSRQ website is accessible on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. is accessible on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. 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."

Many organizations also have family and summertime programs listed on the website. Each of these programs offers opportunities for children and family members to experience and enjoy learning together.

How do I stay informed about EdExploreSRQ activities?

Keep in touch with all of the latest news and happenings with EdExploreSRQ by:
Learn more about how EdExploreSRQ is transforming learning opportunities
(total time: 3 minutes 52 seconds)

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