Thoughts on A School District Perspective

Posted on October 05, 2011 by Laurey Stryker, Ed.D., Digital Access for All Initiative Manager

By Angela Hartvigsen, Fine Arts Program Specialist/Project Manager-, Sarasota County Schools

There has been so much excitement swirling around the district over the launch of! 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 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’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 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 are:

Art Center Sarasota

Artist Series of Florida

Asolo Repertory Theatre

Circus Sarasota

Crowley Museum and Science Center

Embracing Our Differences

Florida Studio Theatre

Fuzión Dance

G. WIZ- The Science Museum

Historic Spanish Point

La Musica

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

Riverview Planetarium

Sarasota Ballet of Florida

Sarasota Bay Estuary Program

Sarasota Orchestra

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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