January 2010 – JUNE 2023


The Purpose

Compelling research shows that experiential learning and hands-on exploration are two of the most beneficial ways to increase student engagement and sustained learning. These authentic learning experiences teach students in a way that strengthens their ability to retain information and make connections. Understanding the inherent potential within their programming to promote these experiential learning opportunities, Sarasota County’s arts, cultural, civic, and economic organizations have sought ways to increase the participation of school-aged children and families for many years.

Strengthening the Impact

In 2011, EdExploreSRQ was launched as a web-based program connecting teachers, administrators, and parents to hundreds of curriculum-aligned experiences (“Explorations”) for students in Sarasota County Schools — creating opportunities to “bring learning to life.” The Patterson Foundation collaborated with community partners, including Sarasota County Schools, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Each partner joined with various organizations and teaching artists to develop and deliver programs offered through EdExploreSRQ.

Since the platform’s creation, EdExploreSRQ has provided hundreds of thousands of student experiences for children in grades K-12, covering content that includes arts, language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, careers, technical education, and more. More than 70 provider organizations and teaching artists have posted more than 250 Explorations on the website, vetted by Sarasota County Schools for alignment with curriculum standards.

The Patterson Foundation's aspiration was to create, embed, and spread EdExploreSRQ. TPF provided strategic technical assistance and committed $3.5 million in unrestricted matching funds to the EdExploreSRQ Endowment Fund to ensure sustainable access to these experiential learning opportunities in perpetuity. This included a dollar-for-dollar match of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s (CFSC) investment of $1,000,000 over ten years to fund current Explorations for students in Sarasota County — particularly those from asset-limited families — as well as a 2:1 match for $1,250,000 in donations received from individual donors. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County also offer annual funding.


Click on frequently asked questions below to learn more about this initiative...

Why did The Patterson Foundation support this initiative?

Sarasota County students are fortunate to grow up in a region with incredible cultural treasures and innovative science-based experiences. The Patterson Foundation cares about our children's future and understands the importance of connecting them with these opportunities. The Patterson Foundation strengthened the efforts of people, organizations, and communities to enhance and enrich the educational experience for Sarasota County students through EdExploreSRQ.

EdExploreSRQ was one of The Patterson Foundation's nine legacy initiatives launched at the Foundation's inception to inform its approach. During the following decade, The Patterson Foundation's role in EdExploreSRQ evolved from catalyst and facilitator to finalizing the initiative's sustainability through the EdExploreSRQ Endowment Fund.

The initiative was created to honor Dorothy Patterson, who enjoyed and supported the arts. She felt children should have cultural opportunities because these experiences help students understand and appreciate themselves and others.

What are EdExploreSRQ Explorations?

"The things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them." — Aristotle

Explorations are active, experiential learning opportunities available through the EdExploreSRQ website. They include on- and off-campus experiences, virtual experiences, and artist-in-residence programs offered by provider organizations and teaching artists located in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties. Sarasota County Schools' curriculum staff has approved all to meet Florida educational benchmarks and standards for grades K-12.

Explorations are one of the most valuable opportunities teachers can provide for their students in the formative years. Research has shown that children learn by doing. They remember what they have personally experienced. In addition, concept development is optimized through active, explorative experiences. Explorations offer experiential learning that gets children into a new mode of learning, whether through field trips or virtual opportunities on campus.

Explorations not only expand children's learning and experiences by providing them with real-world, hands-on encounters — they also increase children's knowledge and understanding of the world in which they live. They include subjects ranging from theatre, music, dance, and visual and language arts to history, social studies, science, mathematics, physical education, health, and career and technical education.

Is EdExploreSRQ supported by research?

Yes. Research shows that active, experiential learning helps students understand and apply concepts better and retain information longer. Through both on and off-campus, hands-on learning experiences, EdExploreSRQ enables teachers to expand their students' learning and understanding beyond the classroom walls and into the local community. They provide students with real-world learning opportunities that, while difficult to duplicate in the traditional classroom, are nonetheless an integral part of school instruction. They also allow students to interact with their environment and the world around them in ways that many may never have experienced.

"Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results." — John Dewey

As the notable educational researcher Robert Marzano states, such opportunities can best be described as a living laboratory where learning is acquired through active, hands-on experiences with the rich resources of the local community.

John Goodlad and Theodore Sizer emphasize that the experiential education model shifts both teachers' and students' roles, especially at the secondary levels. Teachers who utilize experiential education become facilitators, and their students assume more of the decision-making and problem-solving roles that have traditionally been the sole responsibility of the teacher. In addition, teachers often structure the transfer of learning from the experiential activity to the real world, including the process of reflection for the students, so they derive the most learning from the experience and ensure that the learning outcomes are reached. This is considered a significant shift toward student-centered teaching, or a child-centered curriculum.

How are educators using EdExploreSRQ?

EdExploreSRQ allows teachers in Sarasota County Schools to expand their students' horizons and engage them in the learning process like never before. Despite the wealth of arts, culture, science, and environmental resources available in our area, many students have never had the opportunity to visit a local museum, attend a live theatre or musical performance, or explore the wonders of our local beaches and waterways. EdExploreSRQ brings these learning experiences to life for students in our local schools throughout the year.

Through in-service training and workshops that EdExploreSRQ and its provider organizations and teaching artists host for educators, local teachers are also connected with expanded resources and the opportunity to learn new approaches for engaging their students. Pre- and post-classroom activities that are part of the program also help educators imagine ways to effectively use Explorations to achieve learning outcomes for their students.

How do providers submit concepts for Explorations to be listed on EdExploreSRQ?

All Explorations included on the EdExploreSRQ website must meet Florida educational benchmarks and standards for grades K-12 and be approved by the Sarasota County Schools curriculum department prior to publishing. Community providers and teaching artists are encouraged to contact EdExploreSRQ Manager Angela Hartvigsen at angela.hartvigsen@sarasotacountyschools.net to learn more about the application process.

What is the EdExploreSRQ Endowment Fund, and why was it created?

Student fees, PTO support, school discretionary funds, and provider resources pay for most EdExploreSRQ Explorations. However, early in the program’s history, The Patterson Foundation discovered a gap in EdExploreSRQ participation among schools serving children from asset-limited families. To address this shortcoming and increase the overall awareness and funding of EdExploreSRQ’s opportunities, The Patterson Foundation worked with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to create the EdExploreSRQ Endowment Fund. This endowment will provide funding for creating and delivering experiential learning for years to come.

What is The Patterson Foundation’s investment into EdExploreSRQ?

The Patterson Foundation committed $3.5 million in unrestricted matching funds to the EdExploreSRQ Endowment Fund to ensure sustainable access to experiential learning opportunities in perpetuity. This included a dollar-for-dollar match of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s investment of $1,000,000 over ten years to fund current Explorations for students in Sarasota County — particularly those from asset-limited families — as well as a 2:1 match for $1,250,000 in donations received from individual donors.

What is the EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership and how is it sustaining the initiative?

Adopted in 2013, the EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership set the framework and shared commitments needed to sustain and continuously improve the program. Community partners include Sarasota County Schools, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and previously The Patterson Foundation. Partnership members meet to envision new possibilities, capitalize on the Community Partners' strengths and talents, and analyze and provide feedback on the program and its initiatives to ensure sustainability and a continued emphasis on experiential learning.

How do community partners support EdExploreSRQ?

Members of the EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership provide visionary leadership to guarantee the sustainment of high-quality programs; ensure equity and access for all students (Every year, Every Student, EdExploreSRQ); and promote the program with their respective members, recommending and implementing improvements based on surveys and other feedback, along with specific assignments. For example:
  • Sarasota County Schools manages and maintains the EdExploreSRQ website, convenes Community Partnership quarterly meetings, and vets the Explorations for alignment with state benchmarks and educational standards prior to posting. Angela Hartvigsen is the school district's EdExploreSRQ manager.

  • The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County manages the Artists in Schools Program, which consists of vetted and specially trained teaching artists who provide Explorations through EdExploreSRQ.

  • The Education Foundation of Sarasota County funds Explorations through its annual grant program.

  • The Community Foundation of Sarasota County funds and manages a rolling grant program for Explorations. With matching funds from The Patterson Foundation, the Community Foundation has worked with donors to create named and unrestricted EdExploreSRQ endowments to support the program and its experiential learning initiatives into perpetuity.

How has the EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership evolved to sustain EdExploreSRQ’s opportunities and impact?

The EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership was established to ensure the school district would stay connected to the community's cultural organizations and engage funders to strengthen the initiative. In 2019, The Patterson Foundation began a strategic leadership transition toward giving the Sarasota County School District and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County primary responsibility for EdExploreSRQ by June 2020.

The shift focused on new realities, giving school leaders the opportunity to have greater ownership in ensuring EdExploreSRQ is an integral part of the instructional program at every grade level. School EdExploreSRQ Champions were selected at every Sarasota County school to continually share information with staff and acquaint new teachers with the curriculum connections and benefits of experiential learning. Embedding experiential learning through EdExploreSRQ has the potential to allow for greater access and equity for all learners as it becomes an essential component of every instructional unit they have.

How will EdExploreSRQ be sustained over time?

The commitments of the Sarasota County School District Leadership and the EdExploreSRQ Partnership Committee, together with the EdExploreSRQ Endowment Fund and revolving grants from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and additional partners, are firmly rooted to ensure sustainability in perpetuity.

What impact has EdExploreSRQ achieved in its historical journey?

  • Beginning in March 2020, COVID-19 significantly impacted access to Explorations. Explorations had to be reimagined to be responsive to students' remote learning environment by becoming completely virtual.
  • Many teachers, administrators, and local providers demonstrated their resiliency, rising to the challenge by adapting, innovating, and creating new ways of providing meaningful learning experiences to augment classroom learning virtually.
  • Providers collaborated informally for sessions called "Lessons Learned," where they shared their talents and expertise, especially in the areas of technical and instructional design. The sessions allowed Providers to practice and troubleshoot in a safe space, gaining feedback and support from peers.
  • Sarasota County Schools remained committed to having every child participate in at least one Exploration each year. At least 18 Providers and Teaching Artists have offered over 18,000 students virtual explorations via on-demand, live-stream, or through personalized experiences for specific classrooms.
  • Special efforts were made to meet with all elementary Specials teachers (Art, Music, P.E., Technology, Drama, Dance, Foreign Language) to highlight Explorations that align well with their content areas in an effort to increase student participation.
  • Virtual tours of Patriot Plaza were created, allowing students to witness the beauty of the various artwork that honors veterans, inspires patriotism, and embraces freedom.

As these organizations came together, they learned from each other, strengthened their skills, shared their talents and knowledge, and found novel ways to connect, allowing EdExploreSRQ to evolve and respond to the new normal of teaching and learning.


  • The Patterson Foundation began a year-long transition shifting the responsibilities for EdExploreSRQ to the primary partners, Sarasota County Schools, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Brian Hersh became the lead visionary for the EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership Committee as they participated firsthand in the Circus Arts prototypical Exploration and then began envisioning new possibilities together.
  • The 4th Annual ED-stravaganza took place with continued high energy and opportunities for collaboration between the EdExploreSRQ Providers and teachers.
  • The annual Provider Workshop focused on mental health issues in the schools, The Bay Project, and offered School District updates.
  • Moving forward, there is a new emphasis on embedding experiential learning as an integral part of instruction and increasing school leadership's role in maximizing the use of teachers as EdExploreSRQ School Champions. They are now the primary communicators/encouragers for bringing learning to life at each school so that every child will experience EdExploreSRQ.
  • With COVID-19, Explorations have evolved into virtual experiences. Those that were already designed as distance learning opportunities have continued through the pandemic. Possibilities for Explorations that engage families in addition to students may also emerge.

  • The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-level Reading partnered with EdExploreSRQ, resulting in over 1,780 kindergarten and first-grade students from twelve Title I elementary schools servicing asset-limited areas in Sarasota County participating in specially designed Explorations. EdExploreSRQ Goes WILD for Literacy reinforced literacy skills such as vocabulary and listening, so vitally important for early learners. Twelve local providers enthusiastically provided each child with a book for their home libraries connected to their Explorations and incorporated follow-up activities to encourage parent engagement.
  • Sarasota County conducted its Teacher Survey to obtain valuable insights about the spread and usage of EdExploreSRQ.
  • The 3rd Annual ED-stravaganza generated greater participation and excitement due to principals' encouragement to have the greatest attendance numbers to win monetary prizes for Explorations.


  • The 2017 Teacher Survey data reported more teachers were very familiar with the EdExploreSRQ website. Regarding working and collaborating with EdExploreSRQ providers, there was a significant increase from 2015 to 2017 in positive teacher responses in all these areas:
✔ Adding to students' understanding of standards/benchmarks
✔ EdExploreSRQ helpful in connecting students with community resources
✔ Easier access to grant funding
✔ More likely to incorporate EdExploreSRQ into planning lessons
  • Any Given Child Sarasota, led by Brian Hersh, worked to leverage Explorations for grade-wide experiences so every third-grader has access to a professional ballet company, fourth-graders to a world-class museum, and every eighth-grader can learn about patriotism and visual art at Patriot Plaza.
  • The Education Foundation invests in developing Career Interactive Explorations with over 15 opportunities for middle school students to strengthen their career pathways through partnerships with local businesses.
  • Passionary Susan Nations, Principal of Wilkinson Elementary School, envisioned taking advantage of her neighborhood resources such as the Falhaber Lab, Suncoast Technical High School. and Florida House to create STEAM Street (Where Thinkers Tinker) with stations such as weather, butterfly garden, a giant loom, a giant abacus, and bridge-building.
  • Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery (part of The Patterson Foundation's nine legacy initiatives) welcomed students in grades 4-12 to learn about American values, history, and civics. Social Studies teachers of eighth-grade Civics attended Patriot Plaza Bootcamp to inspire their students to engage in teacher-created dynamic learning activities. The Sarasota County Schools, Patriot Plaza, and UF/IFAS collaborated to create an experience for eighth-grade students combining a Physical Science Exploration at Twin Lakes Park with a Civics Exploration at Patriot Plaza.

"Community impact powered by philanthropy has worked to create a new reality. The Patterson Foundation and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County's example of investing in students and teachers and their foresight to create sustainability of arts and science experiences will happen into perpetuity ensuring a bright future for students of Sarasota County Schools." - Brian Hersh, Director of Any Given Child, Chair of the EdExploreSRQ Partnership, Sarasota County Schools

  • Six Teaching Videos at a variety of grade levels were created, illustrating how teachers can utilize EdExploreSRQ to enhance their curriculum. The visual images of engaged students, the teacher stories, and the spontaneity of student voices bring the power of the Exploration to life for the viewers. Teachers come away with a replicable model to use for their own classes. The connections are clear, the content aligns with Florida Standards, and teachers can justify using experiential learning as one more high-quality strategy to enrich their teaching.
  • The EdExploreSRQ Story was presented at National Conference ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) in Houston to many who have never heard of the concept or who may be interested in the unique model of connecting teachers and students to experiential learning opportunities in a community.

  • The Patterson Foundation and Community Foundation of Sarasota County announced the EdExploreSRQ Endowment Partnership, which allowed experiential learning to bring greater equity and access to all students, especially for schools serving asset-limited populations.
  • Matching grants and Just-in-Time grants provided new opportunities for funding Explorations.
  • The first formal evaluation of EdExploreSRQ and the Provider Survey data continued to offer insights into what was working and what needed further attention with EdExploreSRQ
  • The Provider Survey offered invaluable views and data from Provider Organizations and Teaching Artists
  • Riverview High School was the first to involve students in the development and creation of an Exploration: The Nature Walk. Collaborating with local businesses, this Exploration was soon vetted and became a popular one for hundreds of elementary students annually with high school students serving as docents.
  • Explorations at the newly dedicated Patriot Plaza at the Sarasota National Cemetery show that middle school students can learn firsthand about Patriot Plaza's key values: service, freedom, and patriotism.

  • Expanded opportunities became available for experiential learning, so students could explore and engage in the rich artistic, scientific, and cultural resources in Sarasota County despite the heavy emphasis on testing and accountability.
  • The Patterson Foundation celebrated individuals and organizations that embraced hands-on learning through EdExploreSRQ
  • The EdExploreSRQ.com formal Partnership was initiated and approved by the Sarasota County School Board with an eye toward sustainability and thrivability. The Patterson Foundation created an EdExploreSRQ Endowment Fund to ensure all Sarasota K-12 students could benefit from Explorations offered on the EdExploreSRQ site. This aligned with The Patterson Foundation's value of catalyzing philanthropy, especially new donors, thus providing sustainability of its initiatives.
  • Teaching artists began to create Explorations targeted at specific grade levels and curriculum standards.

  • School district teachers were excited to try out new Explorations using EdExploreSRQ.com, "one-stop-shopping" on the website.
  • The Patterson Foundation and the Education Foundation provided funding for Explorations with learning successes documented.

  • Dr. Laurey Stryker, EdD, was appointed to head the Cultural Connections with Students Initiative, one of the original nine legacy initiatives of The Patterson Foundation. Community and Teacher Surveys showed many opportunities for students in the community and challenges for schools.
  • The Patterson Foundation hosted a series of symposia to enhance collaborative connections among local arts, science, and history organizations and the Sarasota Schools.
  • The Patterson Foundation supported Sarasota County School District development of a user-friendly database so teachers could select and plan experiences that align with curriculum.
  • Teachers learned to connect easily with local science and cultural organizations through EdExploreSRQ.com for learning experiences aligned with their curriculum.
  • Grant Funding increased opportunities thanks to the generosity and foresight of The Patterson Foundation that announced it would match up to $500,000 over three years for every new and increased dollar raised by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County in support of Exploration grants for teachers. Half of the matching funds seeded an endowment, and the other half funded Teacher Exploration Grants.

How can I donate to fund Explorations?

Contact the Community Foundation of Sarasota County: (941) 955-3000 or email DonorServices@cfsarasota.org.

What is the EdExploreSRQ Goes WILD for Literacy program and how does it support the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-level Reading?

In 2018, EdExploreSRQ began to expand its focus on literacy and parent engagement with K–1 Explorations designed to support the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. This program, entitled “EdExploreSRQ Goes WILD for Literacy,” allows providers and teachers to select a content-appropriate book for students to take home after the Exploration. Each book has information about the Exploration, along with key vocabulary words and links so parents can read along and explore with their children.

Students involved in EdExploreSRQ Goes WILD for Literacy Explorations are encouraged to complete a Memory Journal and return a postcard to the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to receive an additional book following their learning experience.

The learnings from WILD for Literacy Explorations will be utilized by both providers and educators.

Who can I contact about the EdExploreSRQ initiative?

For more information, contact Angela Hartvigsen, manager of EdExploreSRQ for the school district angela.hartvigsen@sarasotacountyschools.net.

Additional FAQ's

Click on frequently asked questions below to learn more about the EdExploreSRQ program in schools...

What do educators think about EdExploreSRQ?

EdExploreSRQ allows teachers to engage their students in the learning process in new and dynamic ways. Consider the following testimonials:

"One low-achieving student made a poster that said, 'You can save 45 cups of water if you turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth.' Our class received so many positive comments about that particular poster. It really boosted the self-confidence of that student. From then on, this student performed much higher in science and was much more motivated to learn about science."
— Sarah Hu, Bay Haven School of Basics Plus
Mote Marine's "Estuaries, the Watershed, and Me" Exploration

"They were blown away by the beauty of the masks, so it was a special treat that we caught the display. The masks inspired all the students to draw in pen and ink and create their own compositions. The ceramics teacher did an assignment, and his students made Rain-Forest-inspired masks."
— Julie Felts, Booker High School
Selby Gardens' "Bromeliads, Buds, and Other Botanicals" Exploration

"I have a student that is an attention seeker. During this performance, he was 100% engaged in the stage production. He sat quietly and was mesmerized. The only thing he wanted was to share the experience and make sure that I was looking at the performance. It was a beautiful sight!"
— Kathryn Jill Bonacci, Fruitville Elementary School
Sarasota Orchestra's "Community Survival" Exploration

"The parent of one of my students reported to me that her son was so excited to tell her about the performance that it inspired her to research taking the whole family to the theatre. They were able to find a cost-effective, family-friendly performance at the Venice Theatre."
— Theresa Corlett, Garden Elementary School
Venice Theatre's "The Little Engine That Could Earns Her Whistle" Exploration

"I had a student who really did not like to write. After the Playmakers came to our school, he wanted to write. Every time we had writing time, he took out his story and wrote. When he finished work early, he wrote. He shared it with his friends and me whenever he added something new. The student was open to most suggestions to help his story be better. I was just happy that he wanted to write. It was an amazing change!"
— Andrea Trahan, Taylor Ranch Elementary School
Florida Studio Theatre's "Inspiring Writers" Exploration

What do students think about EdExploreSRQ?

Learn more about the power of experiential learning for students through these blogs and videos:

How can parents and family members use EdExploreSRQ?

The EdExploreSRQ website is accessible on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. When your child is going on an Exploration, look it up on EdExploreSRQ beforehand. Discuss what your child might see or do. Since you'll know more about the experience, there are fun activities you can enjoy together. You can also take your child back to the place they visited and let them be your "guide."

Many organizations also have family and summertime programs listed on the website. Each of these programs offers opportunities for children and family members to experience and enjoy learning together.

How do I stay informed about EdExploreSRQ activities?

Keep in touch with all of the latest news and happenings with EdExploreSRQ by:
  • Visiting the program website: EdExploreSRQ.com
  • Liking EdExploreSRQ on Facebook: @EdExploreSRQ
  • Following @EdExploreSRQ on Twitter: #EdExploreSRQ
  • Subscribing to the EdExploreSRQ email newsletter: Email angela.hartvigsen@sarasotacountyschools.net
Learn more about how EdExploreSRQ is transforming learning opportunities.
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