EdExploreSRQ was launched through a community partnership involving Sarasota County Schools, The Patterson Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, and Science and the Environment Council of Southwest Florida. The experiential learning resource has provided more than 300,000 student experiences in grades K-12 since its inception in 2011.
Aimed especially at students from families with limited means and abilities to access some of our community’s most valued natural and cultural resources, the program provides teachers with a customized, web-based platform, EdExploreSRQ, to find experiential learning opportunities best suited for their students.
These explorations, offered by area arts, science, and cultural organizations, conform to educational standards. They give students different ways to learn, guide teachers to more avenues supporting classroom curricula, help organizations engage with the district, and provide families with stronger connections to the classroom.
EdExploreSRQ allows students to explore hands-on learning that brings education to life and better acquaints them with their community and resources available to them. The program particularly values explorations that reach students who have grown up here without ever experiencing iconic sites, such as Myakka State Park, The Ringling, Mote Marine Laboratory, and dozens of others.
In addition to EdExploreSRQ’s community partnership team, major arts and cultural organizations have been steadfast providers and supporters since the program’s inception, and the list of participants keeps growing with the addition of teaching artists and new organizations.
While the Community Foundation of Sarasota County currently is the primary granting organization for EdExploreSRQ, other partners contribute to cross-funding grants and learning opportunities as well.
“Build a Circus” is an example of shared funding bringing an arts-related exploration to life for 600 students at Alta Vista Elementary, a Title I school. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County provided major funding for this project, and final budgetary needs were covered by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.
The exploration not only introduced local elementary students to the Circus Arts Conservatory, one of our area’s cultural icons, but it also honed their collaborative decision-making and planning skills.
Ultimately, EdExploreSRQ illustrates the value of strategic philanthropy that encourages Sarasota County’s varied foundations and organizations to pool resources in partnership for the education of our youth and the good of our community.