Have you ever wondered how your smartphone works? How about a telescope? Or helium pants? This year, the Longwood Gardens Community Read invites you to explore the wonders of science, technology, and engineering that shape our world. Pick up this year’s titles—The Way Things Work Now by David Macaulay, and Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty—to find fun and fascinating answers to these questions, and the inspiration to ask many more.
But don’t stop there. Our Community Read is all about . . . well, community. And though reading is the perfect way to explore challenging themes—within the safety of a place that a book in hand provides, while gazing through a window framed by your own experience—our Community Read beckons you to grab a gizmo or gadget, pry open that window, and reach across the sill to start a conversation.
Our partner organizations are doing just that, throwing open the windows and doors of their libraries, museums, nature centers, and even a flying field, and hosting programs that run the gamut from book discussions in six county library systems, to learning How Astronomy Works right here in our Meadow Garden with Franklin Institute astronomer Derrick Pitts. Check out our list of Community Read events and sign up for an after-school construction club, learn about animal engineers, take part in a self-driving robot race, and much much more.
The conversation has begun—here’s what some of our partners are saying about our Community Read.
“The Community Read initiative has provided a springboard for Natural Lands Trust to meet our goal of engaging children and younger audiences,” says Director of Engagement Debbie Beer. She remarks that this year’s selections “offer nearly endless themes on which to develop activities for all ages. Engineering impacts nature which impacts engineering in a ceaseless cycle of beauty and innovation.”
On April 9, Natural Lands Trust invites children and their favorite adults to participate in Flower Power—Kids Read and Explore at Saunders Woods Preserve, where staff and volunteers will guide an interactive, outdoor experience to discover how flowers and plants inspire engineers, architects, and artists in amazing ways.
“Natural Lands Trust protects land and natural resources for people to enjoy today, tomorrow, and forever,” says Beer. “There are inherent challenges to this endeavor, but informed conversations are key to reaching our organizational goals. Books encourage broad-reaching perspectives and ideas that may not be available through real-life experiences.”
Mary Cronin, Dean of Education & Public Programs for Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art, sees immediate and practical value in “being able to pool resources,” while Conservation and Stewardship Program Assistant Lela Burke voices the far-reaching effects of “listening to others’ thoughts and perspectives, which can inspire the community to make powerful and positive connections.”
Burke is inspired by the role model of Rosie Revere, who “learns to believe in herself and finds that even her ‘failures’ can lead to new discoveries. Her character encourages having fun while using imagination to create amazing things—what a positive force of nature she is!”
The Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art is planning four fun events, including The Way Springtime Works on April 13 & 15, which starts with a sensory walk along beautiful Brandywine trails to note the signs in nature that trigger the return of spring. Afterwards, participants will build a birdhouse or bee house to take home.
Burke feels that “science, technology, and engineering can be intimidating subjects and introducing children early can turn fear into curiosity,” while Cronin adds that “interdisciplinary programming that combines science, art, and environment can build knowledge and encourage creativity in all areas of life.”
Delaware Art Museum is new to our Community Read, but not to libraries—the museum provides programs for summer reading clubs, whose theme this year just happens to be Build a Better World. Eliza Jarvis, School & Outreach Programs Manager, believes there’s real value in offering free access to art programs in the familiar and comfortable setting of a library.
“This partnership allows us to break down the invisible barrier that a museum sometimes represents, because it’s harder for people to enter when they don’t know what’s beyond the threshold. We often see families from library programs at our museum, where they can have a different cultural experience.”
Storytelling is a huge part of Delaware Art Museum’s history. Their Glory of Stories program on August 18 will combine reading Rosie Revere, Engineer with looking at art and making art—kids will be able to paint and test a “pint-sized parachuting figurine.”
“Artists employ a lot of the same skills as architects and engineers,” explains Jarvis. “We have some pieces in our sculpture garden, for example, that are highly engineered—wind-powered, with ball bearings, using light and sound.”
Longwood Gardens invites you to join our community of readers, and explore the inventive programs our partners have to offer. The windows have been opened wide—come look at things in a different light, catch a fresh idea on the breeze, and, like Rosie Revere, “dream the bold dreams of a great engineer.”