A Home Run for Experiential Learning in Our Schools



My husband Mike and I love to experience the amazing community we live in as well other communities when we are fortunate to travel.  As I often share, we both enjoy cycling (each summer take part in RAGBRAI, an annual ride across Iowa), but we also love football, baseball, plays, museums, cultural events and just about anything else that allows us to get out and experience the world around us.

At this time of year in our region, there are so many activities and events to enjoy. From my office at the Community Foundation, you can practically smell the popcorn at Ed Smith Stadium, and you can definitely hear the roar of the crowd when a Baltimore Orioles player makes a big spring training play. For me, a trip to the ballpark is just one more of the many attractions that make Sarasota such a special place to live.

Yet, for thousands of school-age children living in our area, the local arts, culture and natural resources that so many of us take for granted are simply not part of their experience.

For these youngsters, attending the Van Wezel for a live performance, visiting The Ringling to be inspired by the world-renowned artworks, touring Mote Marine to discover the wonders of the sea or exploring the grounds of Selby Gardens to learn about the beautiful flowers and plants are things their families simply cannot afford. Due to their parents’ busy work schedules and other limiting factors, many have never even had the chance to visit our local beaches, admire the annual Embracing Our Differences displays on Sarasota’s bayfront or hike a trail in Myakka State Park.

That is why the Community Foundation, in partnership with The Patterson Foundation, Sarasota County Schools, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County and the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, is proud to support EdExploreSRQ.

Thanks to this initiative, K-12 students in Sarasota County Schools are being given the opportunity to experience and learn about the many arts, cultural, scientific, historical and natural resources our area has to offer. But these are not just field trips. Instead, they are active learning experiences that are tied to state educational benchmarks and standards.

Through these experiences, the students increase their knowledge of the arts, science, mathematics, history, language arts, social studies and other content areas. They also create valuable connections between what they are studying in the classroom and what is happening in the world around them.  

Research shows that experiential learning opportunities, like those provided by EdExploreSRQ, help students understand and apply concepts better, motivate them to engage and interact more deeply with content, and create new areas of interest.

Of course, EdExploreSRQ also makes learning more fun.

At present, nearly 70 local organizations and teaching artists participate in EdExploreSRQ, offering nearly 250 “Explorations” throughout the year. Since the program’s inception in 2011, the Community Foundation and The Patterson Foundation have committed $2 million in support of this program, providing access to more than 300,000 student experiences. Some of the students most impacted are those who come from Title 1 schools.

But perhaps the best thing about EdExploreSRQ is that it is allowing young people in our community to share in the many incredible resources our area has to offer. In baseball terms, I’d say that is a home run.

Roxie Jerde is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

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