Sharing from The Patterson Foundation: “A year of accomplishment for EdExploreSRQ”

By Brian Hersh
Link to the original The Patterson Foundation blog post:


“The hope of EdExploreSRQ keeps the magic going in the classroom. This has been exponentially helpful to teachers and students to keep the love of teaching and learning.” – Debra Jacobs

Summertime is usually reserved for precious time to relax, travel, enjoy family and friends, clean, and make ready for a new beginning. This treasured time always seems to slip by so swiftly that we are often frustrated when we achieve far less than proposed.

The long, hot days also lend themselves to quiet reflection: thinking about what went well over the past year, what was left unfinished or disappointments that continue to haunt us — despite attempts to repress them. One of my summer reflections centered on the EdExploreSRQ journey. What has been accomplished to date? What areas should we continue to focus on in the year ahead?

Thanks to The Patterson Foundation’s visionary leadership and collaboration with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, EdExploreSRQ’s thunder resounds in schools across the county. The impact of experiential learning for students is heartwarming as evidenced by their unremitting engagement while learning.

Roxie Jerde stated at a recent School Board meeting: “EdExploreSRQ “inspires our students by providing access to our wonderful treasures.”

Most importantly, Superintendent of Sarasota County Schools Lori White’s unwavering support for this initiative reminds us that leadership is key with any initiative. Superintendent White considers EdExploreSRQ one of the “hallmarks” of her tenure. She expressed her gratitude at a May school board meeting where she recognized the partners that have created endowments to ensure the sustainability of EdExploreSRQ.

The Florida Alliance for Arts Education (FAAE) Leadership Summit paid tribute to Superintendent Lori White as their 2016 State Superintendent of the Year. The FAAE cited White’s tireless efforts to promote and maintain outstanding arts programs in local schools, as well as the strong relationships she has fostered with community arts organizations through programs like Any Given Child Sarasota, as key components in helping place Sarasota County among the state’s leaders in quality arts education for ALL students.

The EdExploreSRQ Initiative has again gained traction within Sarasota County schools and its community is extremely proud of its cultural, arts, and science organizations for their strong partnership and support of education. During 2015-2016 school year, new milestones were achieved:

  • Since February 2014, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County has provided $381,572.40 for 229 explorations.
  • Over 250 explorations posted on the website
  • Boasts 45 participating organizations and 25 teaching artists
  • All schools participating with EdExploreSRQ with at least seven explorations
  • EdExploreSRQ 3.0 will launch with new functionalities added consistent with user recommendations and school district maintenance capabilities so the website will be a stable, reliable resource for users
  • The curriculum department continued to link appropriate explorations to the Instructional Focus Guides and as a result was able to identify gaps areas where new explorations could be developed
  • The Education Foundation completed two instructional videos for these explorations: Art Meets Chemistry at Riverview High School and Rockets- Our Vessels to Space with Brookside Middle School
  • Marketing efforts were greatly enhanced through monthly Vlogs and a new EdExploreSRQ newsletter, targeted media releases, and an increased social media presence
  • The EdExploreSRQ Community Partnership gained a greater understanding of the importance of their long-term role for sustainability, envisioned new opportunities, provided ideas for the website refresh, as well as input for 2016-2017 budget
  • The success of endowment funds in supporting several provider organizations to acquire their own endowment funds for EdExploreSRQ as well the Community Foundation’s efforts to achieve their matching funds benchmarks.
  • School-wide approaches to utilizing EdExploreSRQ made their debut whereby teachers incorporated multiple explorations at various grade levels throughout the year that were aligned to the curriculum. Efforts centered on demonstrating how to maximize funding resources to gain greater access for students.
  • The Any Given Child Program provided greater access and equity by grade level to quality EdExplorations: All third graders attend the Sarasota Ballet; all fourth graders tour The Ringling, and soon all 8th graders will visit Patriot Plaza. In addition, Embracing Our Differences is available to all students at all grade levels at no cost.

Project Elevate, funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant, offered hundreds of students at four Title 1 elementary schools in Sarasota County arts integrated instruction. Brian Hersh confirmed that experiential learning is thriving in Sarasota County, and he summed up the impact of EdExploreSRQ with these three major outcomes and measures of success:

1.    All of the community cultural, arts, and science happenings that have long made our county a special place to live are now an essential element of a complete education ensuring access and equity especially for our Title I students.

2.   Curricular connections with Instructional Focus guides and classroom resources developed by our organizations make stronger ties to curriculum standards than ever before, raising the bar for providers and holding teachers accountable regarding impact and rigor.

3.   Collective Impact: the leadership of our local foundations has helped create a systemic approach that has impacted the entire community dedicated to serving students. Grant opportunities with rolling deadliness has allowed more flexibility and maximized timing for classroom teachers.  There has been a greater investment and opportunity and resources leveraged by our providers. Some have created programs to fill gaps that hadn’t existed previously and others have expanded services to reach more students. Several organizations have expanded their own fundraising to continue to support explorations.

Our investment and time to embed and spread the power of experiential learning for students through EdExploreSRQ will continue. We must cultivate new providers, enhance the quality of the explorations, address curricular gaps, and educate new teachers and administrators.

“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

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