When EdExploreSRQ was presented with a challenge last fall, a new idea hatched: EdExploreSRQ goes Wild for LITERACY! This program is a partnership between EdExploreSRQ and the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Wild for LITERACY! focuses on strengthening the literacy components of select EdExplorations for students in grades K–1. Additionally, 12 Title 1 schools in Sarasota County will receive funding for books provided by The Patterson Foundation (TPF) to enhance learning connections for their students.

The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR), guided by Director Beth Duda, is a community effort in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties to help all children, especially those from low-income families, succeed by ensuring they read on grade level by the end of third grade. SCGLR is one of more than 390 Campaign for Grade-Level Reading communities in 44 states across the nation.

EdExploreSRQ is a web-based search platform that has changed the way Sarasota County teachers, principals, and parents identify experiential learning opportunities available in our area. It features hundreds of offerings by local nonprofits, organizations, and individual teaching artists. Each EdExploreSRQ “Exploration” is reviewed and approved by school district staff to ensure compliance with educational standards..

Wild for LITERACY! How it works:
Kindergarten and first-grade teachers will choose an Exploration offered by a provider, a community organization or a teaching artist on EdExploreSRQ.com. Each student that participates in the Wild for LITERACY! Exploration will receive a free book that reinforces reading and the content of the Exploration. For example, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium created an Exploration titled “Become a Scientist.”

Michelle Scotese, a kindergarten teacher at Wilkinson Elementary School, shared her experience:

"The Exploration, 'Become a Scientist,' brought the curriculum to life. Students observed marine animals and learned about their habitats as they stepped into the role of a scientist. They were incredibly excited by the experience, yet focused because they were interested and curious. Highlights included discovering the mystery animal, touch tanks, and seeing animals that they had only learned about in books.

All students were able to take home, A Home for Hermit Crab, a book by Eric Carle that included a letter to the parents about the Exploration. The letter encouraged parents to read the book at home with their child.

Additionally, a YouTube video of a teacher reading A Home for Hermit Crab aloud was created for caregivers with language or literacy barriers. A pocket in the back of the book held a personal journal along with a family feedback postcard. When the postcard is returned to TPF, the student will receive a second book."

To enhance the providers’ understanding, a daylong workshop was scheduled with an emphasis on literacy, including vocabulary, comprehension, writing, speaking, and listening. At the workshop, Beth Duda strategically expressed why community providers are an essential support, and what a significant difference it can make for students to have reading components added to Explorations. The result, EdExploreSRQ providers are working to hone their Explorations by incorporating reading activities designed to engage students.

Holly Chesnoff, literacy program specialist for Sarasota County Schools, provided detailed (yet fun!) information about reading standards and learning activities. Provider organizations stepped forward to present samples of the current reading strategies in their Explorations: Kelli Maldonado for Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Karen Willey for Around the Bend Nature Tours, Tracy Calla for Selby Gardens, and Brad Tanner for Mote Marine Laboratory.

And what do the EdExploreSRQ providers think? They have responded with high enthusiasm. Two of them said, “I always wanted to include a book with our Explorations, but we couldn’t afford it.” A teaching artist said, “This makes my Exploration so much more rich and appealing….I love it!” The providers have embraced the new program and are looking forward to its implementation this year with high hopes. And so are we all as…EdExploreSRQ goes Wild for LITERACY!

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