Category Archives: Arts Education

Inspiration for Manatee County Students through Dance

Submitted by Dr. Zadda Bazzy, Curriculum Specialist for the Visual and Performing Arts for the School District of Manatee County

The School District of Manatee County dance educators attended a very special inservice on January 6. Christopher Hird, the Director of Education for the Sarasota Ballet, conducted a master class with dance students and teachers from Manatee County, as well as students from The Sarasota Ballet Margaret Barbieri Conservatory. Mr. Hird worked with the Conservatory students, ages 13-22, while the Manatee students and teachers observed. Then Mr. Hird worked with the Manatee County middle school and high school dance students and debriefed with the teachers.

The Manatee County students were inspired to see the discipline and commitment of the Conservatory students. According to Ricardo Robinson, dance teacher at Braden River High School, “The thing I found most fascinating was when the students from the Conservatory all said that each day they go to class to work on their weaknesses and not their strengths. That was eye opening for my students in attendance!”

The students were honored to work with a professional of Mr. Hird’s caliber, and the teachers learned a variety of new strategies to increase their effectiveness and refine their feedback for students. Many teachers believed this was the best dance inservice Manatee County has had. Thank you, Mr. Hird, for sharing your expertise with the Manatee County teachers and students!


Mr. Hird lead the Manatee County students in barre work.


The Manatee County students and teachers soaked up Mr. Hird’s suggestions.


The Sarasota Ballet Margaret Barbieri Conservatory students danced and answered questions.

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Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota’s Bountiful Opportunities for Students

By Lee Dougherty Ross, Co-Founder, Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota

Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota offers a diverse selection of musical experiences to the region, featuring established and emerging classical, cabaret and pops artists. In addition to presenting concerts, another important mission of the organization is to support young aspiring musicians and help develop future audiences. Our artists go to local schools, retirement homes and clubs for outreach programs, which have meaning to people of all ages.

Each year we offer 10-15 in-school interactive opportunities for students. The Ying String Quartet was an inspiration for the students at Pine View in October. In November 2016 singer Todd Murray gave a fabulous Master class for the students at State College of Florida, and his pianist, Alex Rybeck, shared valuable information as well.

Also in November, harpist Giuseppina Ciarla performed for students at Booker High School, and the response was electric, particularly as she encouraged the students to touch the strings of the harp.  And, young area musicians, Joshua and Andrea Guaita (participants in our scholarship program,) performed for students at the Sarasota Military Academy.

In December, the Elkey Trio performed on their unusual and various instruments , many of which were a “first time sighting” for most of the students at Riverview High School, who  were mesmerized and enjoyed the interactive experiences as they made attempts to play the instruments.

Over the past five years, our in school programs have touched the lives of more than 12,500 students. We will be presenting a program for Riverview High School students, as well as three community programs in February 2017. A variety of community organizations also welcome our artists and are always thrilled with the music making.

In addition to taking our performers to schools, we offer competitions both locally and nationally and have awarded over $300,000. The local scholarship competition is for Sarasota and Manatee County 10th, 11th and 12th grade musicians. The National Scholarship Competition is offered to career-potential performers 18-25 of age.  Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota was formed in 1996, by Jerold and Lee Dougherty Ross, and is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization presenting about 50 concerts each season.


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Patriot Plaza and EdExploreSRQ— two initiatives of The Patterson Foundation—“cross-pollinate” to inspire students and their teachers with experiential learning


By Cindy Balistreri, Arts Education Manager/Patriot Plaza Tour Manager at the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County.
In December of 2016, Patriot Plaza Guides welcomed forty-six fifth-grade students and their teachers from Imagine School Palmer Ranch to a tour of Patriot Plaza.

Patriot Plaza and EdExploreSRQ— two initiatives of The Patterson Foundation—“cross-pollinate” to inspire students and their teachers with experiential learning. This off-campus destination is the perfect venue for exploring American values while also utilizing lesson plans which help inspire and teach students before, during, and after the exploration.

Student tours focus on the themes of Patriot Plaza which honor Veterans, inspire patriotism and embrace freedom. For students in Grades 4-6, learning at Patriot Plaza is aligned with standards in the subjects of English Language Arts and Visual Art. Students learn what a national cemetery is, who is buried there, and about five large outdoor public artworks.

Another bonus! The Patterson Foundation underwrites transportation for all Patriot Plaza Explorations.

Comments from Alexis Pitsch, Susan Vennum, and Ellen Farrell; fifth-grade teachers at the Imagine School Palmer Ranch:

“Our visit to Patriot Plaza was an invaluable experience for our students. Patriot Plaza is a beautiful testament to those who have served our country. The guides taught our students patriotic symbols and described the motivation behind each of the art displays in various U.S. wars and conflicts. Teachers, we were able to reinforce the importance of respect, integrity, and freedom while at the same time honoring the men and women who served our country. We can never thank them enough. This trip is a keeper for our fifth graders.”

Fifth Grade student Michael Trynor wrote: The trip to Patriot Plaza was amazing! I loved every single second of the trip, so much my jaw dropped! I think the trip was incredibly educational and amusing. I loved all the sculptures, paintings, and especially all the tablets with heartwarming quotes. Personally, my favorite was the star projection map. It gave so much detail on the map, even where you were at the exact moment if you’re at Patriot Plaza. One thing I learned at Patriot Plaza is that it’s not a memorial and honors the living and dead. I also learned about the back story of each and every one of the tablets. Visiting Patriot Plaza had to be one of the best trips ever if not the best. I know it will be a treasured memory for me forever!

Five Patriot Plaza Guides greeted these students and helped to explain the meaning of the different works of art. They described the students as polite, interested, and enthusiastic. During the tour, the Guides spoke about their own military service or support of someone that served. To become a Patriot Plaza Guide, you must invest several months in learning the tour information and presentation skills. Kudos to our lead guide, Deb Tishman, and tour guides Mike Loparco, Charlie Schwall, Ed Gates, and Jimmy Ellison.

We are most grateful to teacher Alexis Pitsch from Imagine School Palmer Ranch who made the arrangements for the students to visit Patriot Plaza to learn and hopefully be inspired. We thank her and her students for participating in this post, and appreciate their enthusiasm for Patriot Plaza!


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Embracing Our Differences and Early Learning Coalition Provide Meaningful Opportunity for Students

Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County Embraces Our Differences
By Shelly Dorfman, Arts Literacy Consultant, and Susie Wells from the Early Learning Coalition

Embracing Our Differences - Early Learning Coalition 1

Embracing Our Differences became the “text” for teaching and learning for nearly 100 children.   Working through the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County (ELC), five centers in our community participated in a comprehensive, collaborative educational experience that integrated the arts into curriculum with focus on reading readiness skills and literacy.

In November 2015, Arts Literacy Consultant Shelly Dorfman led professional development for participating teachers. The evening was an opportunity to explore Embracing Our Differences through previous art exhibits, create their own art work and share strategies about how to bring this experience to children in their classrooms.  A follow up meeting provided an opportunity to exhibit their completed mural and share their personal process.

With the goal of creating and submitting their own art work, each classroom worked diligently to develop an understanding of what Embracing Our Differences meant.  Through a variety of literature, use of intentional vocabulary and multiple art experiences, each classroom explored possible themes for their submission.  During the months following the initial professional development, Susie Wells,  an ELC Early Childhood Specialist, visited each site multiple times to support and provide guidance to the teachers and the children. The centers incorporated the Florida Standards, social competencies, math, vocabulary and analogies into this learning process.  Each mural theme was unique, meaningful and exemplified Embracing Our Differences. 

In March 2016, the culminating event was a field trip to the exhibit.  This trip was orchestrated utilizing about 30 parent volunteers, center staff, ELC staff and Embracing Our Differences’ Education Director, Brenna Wilhm.  Ms. Wells wrote that everyone was “looking forward to taking in the wonder of art and the joy the children will experience.” On the day of the tour, children experienced five designated murals discussing what they saw with involvement, vigor and excitement. One parent asked, “How did she know all about that?” We were grateful to Embracing Our Differences for making available Sarasota County Schools buses which had required equipment for young children. Claudia Malecki, ELC’s Quality Services Manager, noted “the children felt quite special about riding on a bus and going on a field trip for the first time.”

The outcomes of this experience were many.  Children gained increased knowledge of vocabulary as evidenced through pre/post assessing.  Social and emotional skills were demonstrated through  collaboration, empathy, and perspective taking.  The valuable home and school connection was an additional benefit.  Sara Snow of The Renaissance Preschool said, “It made me smile to see the teamwork and friendship during the process.”Liz Williams of A New Beginnings at the Courts said, “There were great conversations about how we’re the same and how we’re also different.”   Some of the comments were priceless as we witnessed the interpretation of art through the eyes of the children.



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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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Symphonius performance by La Musica!

By Karen Johns

Sarasota County students and public were invited to this spring’s 30th La Musica International Chamber Music Festival to enjoy both new and well-known pieces and the world premiere of a new work by local composer, Jerry Bilik, Quintet for Piano and Strings, Opus 30.  The title of the festival was “30 and Counting . . . A Look Ahead,” referring to the three decades that La Musica has been bringing world-class musicians to Sarasota’s residents and visitors.

Bilik moved to Sarasota following successful careers as a university professor of composition, a writer of television and film music, coordinating Oscar and Emmy award shows, working with many popular actors and musicians, and producing “Disney on Ice.”

A quintet of La Musica’s 2016 musicians performed a free concert of Bilik’s piece for music students and teachers at Booker High School on April 11th.  The illustrious ensemble included in program order starting with the violin, viola, cello, bass and ending with the piano: Federico Agostini, Bruno Giuranna, Jeong Hyoun “Christine” Lee, Scott Faulkner and Derek Han.

Joining the performers on stage was the composer who described his writing process and answered the audience’s questions.  The experience was a lively one as teachers had prepared the students with materials provided by La Musica’s Education Specialist, Karen Johns of ARTS4U2.

The instructional materials addressed curricular objectives in English Language Arts, Music, Science, Social Studies, and Visual Arts.  Study guides and DVDs are provided each year free of charge to all Sarasota County public schools and also posted on  In addition, all Sarasota County students are offered free tickets to La Musica rehearsals and concerts.

La Musica’s president, Sally Faron, and the artistic directors are currently planning next year’s festival, which will take place April 1-12, 2017, and will again include many opportunities for teachers and students as well as the general public.

La Musica at Booker VPA still 5

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Science and…the Circus!

Submitted by Karen Bell and Robin Eurich, Education Outreach Team at The Circus Arts Conservatory

The Circus Arts Conservatory’s Education Outreach program recently invited two area middle schools to discover science through circus with an interactive curriculum called Alexander Calder & Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. Laurel Nokomis School and Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences visited the Sailor Circus Arena, where they learned and tried different circus acts like juggling, lyra and low wire. Later, teaching artists Karen Bell and Robin Eurich worked with the students in the classroom to create exceptional engineering circus marvels. All students had the opportunity to see, create and explore more with this circus-fueled scientific program!

Alexander Calder was raised by artists and spent his childhood creating art pieces out of scraps of wire, cork, and fabric. As an adult, he received a degree in engineering and later returned to art, where his engineering background began to influence his work. An early foray into the art world was sketching for Ringling Bros. Circus. He became fascinated with the subject and created a kinetic, miniature circus that he performed in both Paris and New York City, and is now displayed at the Whitney Museum in the Big Apple.

Sir Isaac Newton formulated three laws of motion in the 1600’s. These laws describe how motion operates and the relationship between gravity, friction, mass and acceleration on an object. His laws of motion will never change and are the gateway to astronomy and engineering.

Throughout this project, students are exposed to hands-on inquiry based learning that asks them to problem solve with team mates to produce a required result. Like Calder, they are asked to use reused materials including wire, cork, bottle caps and other found materials. The students demonstrate their knowledge by engineering their own circus act and then describing the concepts to a younger student in a museum-like setting. The participants also work collaboratively, mirroring what they will have to do in the workplace and throughout life. In addition, the students experience failure and success by trial and error and are challenged to solve problems as they arise. This arts integrated curriculum provides greater information retention for the students in all areas of learning.

Many thanks to EdExploreSRQ and The Community Foundation of Sarasota for making this opportunity possible for these students.

Click here to watch the video!

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