EdExploreSRQ kicked off the new school year with its annual ED-stravaganza, a free event that took place on Saturday, August 25, 2018, at the Suncoast Technical College. This is the third year that EdExploreSRQ has hosted this gala showcase, boasting the highest number of attendees to date. More than 75 providers and teaching artists representing local arts, science, cultural, and civic organizations as well as 200 participants representing public, charter, and private schools from Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and Desoto counties crowded the venue with vibrant fervor. School District staff and representatives from The Education Foundation of Sarasota County and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County were onsite to discuss grant opportunities. The Patterson Foundation graciously provided funding for this event.
“The best yet! Better organized and a wider selection of providers.”
Watching this event unfold reminded me of excitement and energy when the circus came to town. As the providers arrived laden with props, costumes, posters, and written materials advertising explorations, a high-spirited buzz began in the hall. Hugs, handshakes, and high fives among the providers underscored the comradery and genuine relationships that exist within this group. It seemed like just minutes before all the displays were colorfully erected—the registration materials organized with passports, maps, and incentives for prizes were readied for guests to arrive.
“Community support in Sarasota County is incredible! What talented and devoted people we have!”
“SRQ Ed,” our young mascot, weaved around the menagerie of display tables introducing himself, thanking visitors for participating and reminding them of our mantra: EdExploreSRQ Brings Learning to Life! This was an incredible opportunity for K–12 teachers, students, and parents to get a firsthand glimpse at nearly 270 explorations—in-class and field trip activities—that are posted on the EdExploreSRQ website. As I walked around the exhibition hall, overhearing the lively interactions between providers and guests, I heard questions about content, logistics, prices, capacity, and even curriculum standards. I realized, even more, what a unique opportunity this event offered parents and teachers—a connection to learn more about existing or new explorations and hear personally from providers exactly what students will experience when they participate. Some providers offered to customize explorations if teachers had specific outcomes they hoped to achieve or wished certain content to be emphasized. Additionally, the demonstrations and performances were well received as participants were able to sample the “real deal.”
“I have so many grant ideas now.”
The enthusiasm and gratitude of guests were pervasive throughout this event as teachers genuinely appreciated the time to learn more about explorations and how they can enhance their curriculum throughout the year. We didn’t need to sell them on the power of experiential learning which allows students hands-on, integrated/thematic, brain-based, real-world encounters.
“Definitely the most engaged group of teachers and parents. They wanted to be here and were excited to learn more about explorations.”
Ed-Stravaganza incentivized participation by awarding monetary prizes to those participants who completed a “passport” which required them to visit a given number of vendors and attend some of the performances and demonstrations. Those who were successful became eligible for the drawing for several $500 prizes for explorations funded by The Patterson Foundation. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County generously offered a $1000 prize to the school that had the highest number of participants. This year, there was a friendly rivalry as schools competed for this prize. Wilkinson Elementary School had been the winner for the first two years, but this year, Tuttle Elementary School made a solid pursuit. In the end, Wilkinson was once again victorious with 35 teachers in attendance. Tuttle made an impressive showing with 27. It was remarkable to know that 65 of the overall 220 attendees came from just two schools!
“I come every year to get new experiences for my students that don’t otherwise have access to these venues.”
The event concluded, and within a flash, down came the signage, props, and colorful displays. Then, the providers packed up and left the hall. As we reflected with pride and great satisfaction about this spectacular happening, we collectively agreed, this year we got it right! Thanks to the dynamic leadership of Fine Arts Specialist Angela Hartvigsen, manager of EdExploreSRQ, each staff member and community volunteer, the strategic timing of the event, targeted marketing, and the prizes, EdExploreSRQ’s had its most successful ED-stravaganza to date. Excellence!