By Angela Hartvigsen, Fine Arts Program Specialist/Project Manager- EdExploreSRQ.com, Sarasota County Schools
There has been so much excitement swirling around the district over the launch of EdExploreSRQ.com! This website, intended to help teachers easily connect their students to powerful real-life explorations that reinforce their work in the classroom as offered by our community organizations, is an exciting, new resource that has teachers and administrators alike buzzing.
As the Fine Arts Program Specialist and Project Manager for EdExploreSRQ, I have had the wonderful opportunity to talk with many different groups about the new site and take people on “tours” of it. No matter what the group- teachers, district level administrators, principals, assistant principals or community members- I see nods and smiles and hear “oohs” and comments of “this is great” whenever I show it off!
Since real life experiences involve enabling students to explore and discover new things about the world around them, the name EdExploreSRQ.com seemed like a perfect fit. So now, when we refer to all of the rich experiences our arts, science and history organizations offer to our students during the school day, we call them explorations. When a teacher searches for explorations on EdExploreSRQ that will connect to classroom learning with a “hands on” component, they can search for the very best fit for their students and to address the unique needs of those students. They can also search by looking up a specific benchmark number which is very useful for teachers as they use data to inform their planning.
It is so nice for teachers and their administrators to know that they have a “one-stop-shopping” option through which to explore new inspiring places to take their students, find fascinating experts to invite into their classroom or engage electrifying performers to light up their stage. They can also access links to the state standards and benchmarks as well as the district Instructional Focus Calendars on EdExploreSRQ’s “Teacher” Tab. Another time saver allows teachers to access field trip forms and requirements through a live link on the “Teacher” Tab.
To add to buzz and excitement of EdExploreSRQ’s launch was the simultaneous launch of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County’s Exploration grants! Exploration Grants will provide funding assistance for projects that are based on an exploration posted on EdExploreSRQ. Individual teachers will be awarded up to $1,500 each and multiple teacher projects can be awarded up to $5,000. Applications for this first time round of the Exploration Grants were due on September 30 and through conversations I have had with a number of teachers, there is considerable interest out there! Teachers have been working closely with the posted organizations and with each other to create some exciting projects and experiences for their students. We are all excited to hear more about the schools and teachers that will be awarded our first Exploration Grants!
Thank you to the Education Foundation and The Patterson Foundation for making the Exploration grants possible. More information about the Education Foundation and other grant opportunities for teachers can be found on EdExploreSRQ.com’s “Ways to Fund” tab.
It has also been extremely gratifying to work with our community organizations through this process. Our community arts, science and history organizations are dedicated to supporting our student learning and achievement any way they are able and that has been evident in the ways they have rolled up their sleeves to work with us on this project. Organizations were required to complete a criteria form that showed their explorations’ specific connections to state educational benchmarks to be considered for inclusion on EdExploreSRQ and our 25 posted organizations have done just that. They continue to stay connected to our curriculum department and our other instructional leaders to make sure they are meeting our needs. I will also continue to work with them on some of the more challenging elements of standards and technical requirements. Thank you to our wonderful community groups…it is a pleasure to work with you.
We are evaluating EdExploreSRQ.com every step of the way with the wonderful Carlene Judge leading this effort. We want this resource to be and continue to be the best tool we can because at the end of the day, it is all about our kids and seeing that look of discovery and pleasure on their faces that only learning can bring.
Organizations currently posted on EdExploreSRQ.com are:
Art Center Sarasota
Artist Series of Florida
Asolo Repertory Theatre
Crowley Museum and Science Center
Embracing Our Differences
Florida Studio Theatre
G. WIZ- The Science Museum
Historic Spanish Point
Lemur Conservation Foundation
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Mote Marine Laboratory (Ed. Dept. & Sea Trek)
New College Public Archaeology Lab
Perlman Music Program/ Suncoast
Ringling College of Art and Design
Sarasota Ballet of Florida
Sarasota Bay Estuary Program
Sarasota Season of Sculpture
South Florida Museum
The John and Mable Ringling Museum
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
…and we are adding more all the time!
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