The power of student experiential learning

The power of student experiential learning

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Lori White

Editor’s Note: Lori White is the superintendent of Sarasota County Schools. 

I am constantly impressed with what a powerful learning tool we have in EdExploreSRQ. Thanks to The Patterson Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the Science and Environment Council and other dedicated community partners, students in the Sarasota County Schools are experiencing the power of experiential learning.

Amid the spirited debate about standardized testing and its impact on students and teachers, it’s important to keep in mind that children learn in many different ways.

While assessment and accountability are important, we must always remember that some learning experiences can have an impact that may be difficult to measure. These opportunities can result in an “aha” moment for a student that can lead to a career, a lifelong interest or even a whole a new way of looking at the world.

I’ve seen first-hand how the EdExploreSRQ explorations made possible by our world-class arts, science and cultural organizations not only help students learn in so many different ways, but also help them understand the importance of being a part of their community.

Many of these young people have never visited an aquarium, seen a dance performance or marveled at a great painting. When they begin to see what the human mind is capable of creating and comprehending, the world around them — and inside them — opens wide. This is how our children become lifelong learners.

Because of our community’s generous, collaborative spirit, our students can use dip nets to explore sea life; see how the laws of physics work with the clowns of the Circus Arts Conservatory; and ride to freedom on history’s Underground Railroad — to name a few popular adventures made possible by EdExploreSRQ, “where learning comes to life.”

I’m happy to report that this rich experiential learning is now part of the DNA of our school district. In Sarasota County, we are blessed that The Patterson Foundation and many other local benefactors and contributors are committed not only to providing diverse educational explorations through EdExploreSRQ, but to ensuring that the program remains healthy and vibrant.

All too often in public education, we offer a transformative program to our students and teachers, only to be forced to end or reduce it when funding is no longer available. Long-term commitments from The Patterson Foundation and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County will nurture and sustain EdExploreSRQ, allowing it to have a positive impact on students for years to come.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to our great supporting organizations, and to all the wonderful teaching artists, scientists and coordinators at the many venues that open their doors or send their ambassadors to visit our schools.

Let’s keep learning and exploring together!

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