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March 11, 2019
Longwood Gardens: Beauty and Brains
For generations, Longwood Gardens has enriched the community with its deep-rooted commitment to preservation, innovation, and education. As far back as 1850, nature-loving locals were gathering at Peirce’s Park to try a new craze called picnicking. In 1906, Pierre S. du Pont purchased the land to save this arboretum from a lumber mill. While always open to the public, Longwood Gardens was granted not- for-profit status in 1946 “for the sole use of the public for purposes of exhibition, instruction, education, and enjoyment.” Today, says Longwood Gardens’ President and CEO Paul B. Redman, “we’re ever mindful of the role we play in our community and in our world… providing a place of beauty, a place of learning, and a place of legacy and stewardship. Our investment in the preservation of our historic Main Fountain Garden and our free virtual field trips offered to schools across the nation are just two examples of the diverse work we do to fulfill our mission.”
While it’s impossible to quantify Longwood’s deep and far-reaching impact on the area since its founding, some remarkable numbers give an idea of the scope of ongoing efforts to honor and cultivate Pierre du Pont’s grand vision.
As part of a commitment to providing access and learning opportunities to those in need, Longwood offers free and subsidized programs for close to 100,000 people a year from the five-county region. From a partnership with Philadelphia-based ArtReach to special grants that give vital curriculum-based lessons to nearly 5,000 students, Longwood wants to share its beauty and its brains with as many people as possible. A teacher in Pottstown notes that these top-notch programs generate both excitement and renewed interest in science in her third grade students. “Our kids don’t normally have access to such an experience, where . . . you can let your imagination run free,” she says.
Longwood’s significant economic impact here is also an extension of du Pont’s commitment to the community. Not only do Longwood operations support 1,130 jobs, but Longwood guests also stimulate the local economy by spending approximately $29M annually in the region. The Main Fountain Garden Revitalization is another example of this impact. Of the $94M Longwood invested in the construction, about $88M was spent in Pennsylvania. Of that $88M, $41M compensated more than 500 workers.
Longwood here, there – and everywhere
Another of the core tenets of Longwood’s mission is to bring beauty and knowledge into people’s lives. In 1931, Pierre du Pont employed cutting-edge technology to engineer the Main Fountain Garden. Today’s technology enables thousands of students—of all ages and from around the world—to learn and to enjoy Longwood Gardens.
Over the last year, 7,000 people from 48 states and 58 countries enrolled in Longwood’s Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Everything About Orchids and Everything About Waterlilies. The free self-paced courses complement Longwood’s winter display, Orchid Extravaganza, and the summer display of its prized Aquatic Gardens. The courses offer novices and experts alike a dynamic learning experience and access to Longwood’s world-renowned experts and collections.
Tucked away behind the Conservatory is a little studio with an enormous impact. On any given school day in Kennett Square, Avondale, across the country, or even in Canada, Mexico, or Costa Rica, anticipation mounts as a class prepares for its field trip to Longwood Gardens. Students have free workbooks and curriculum- enrichment materials from Longwood. They don’t need a bus—the teacher clicks the link to the cloud-based platform, and the class is transported instantly to Longwood. Kellie Saraceno, Longwood’s Distance Learning manager, or another educator, is in the studio to greet them. The excitement is palpable on both sides of screen, Kellie says, and she enjoys engaging students at all levels in lively discussion and hands-on activities. The response to the program has been tremendous, with 10,000 students enjoying a virtual field trip each year, and a higher than 70 percent return rate. Manheim Central School District is even writing the Longwood programs into their curriculum. “Students are amazed by the technology, the Gardens, the science they’re learning—and they’re having fun,” Kellie says.
Enjoy the spring blooms this season from March 30 – May 4. Acres of colorful beauty abound as thousands of blooming trees and flowers herald the arrival of spring. Visit their website for more information.