International Experience 2016: Australia

Holiday season is usually filled with hot chocolate, winter coats, and hibernation. But this year the First Year Fellows are packing sunscreen and summer gear in anticipation of their International Experience to Australia in January 2016!

Since July, the Fellows have been researching and developing an itinerary to explore the social impact of Australian gardens in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Longwood Gardens is finalizing a new strategic plan which prioritizes efforts to measure the effect of our education and community engagement programs on the wider world. In support of this, the Fellows will be traveling to Australia to learn how gardens down under are evaluating the short- and long-term impacts of their own programs. The Fellows will be visiting a variety of destinations in Australia, including world class zoos, gardens, and national parks.

The Red Sands Garden of Cranbourne Gardens, a branch of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Photo courtesy of R.Reeve.

The Red Sands Garden is one of the many beautiful features of Cranbourne Gardens Photo courtesy of R.Reeve.

Fellows will be researching specific programs at each organization that focus on community engagement and education. Through tours and meetings with local staff, the Fellows hope to learn more about Australian garden’s efforts to measure the impact of work they do and to build relationships with gardens on the other side of the world.The Fellows will be departing from the United States on January 10th to begin their exciting two-week research expedition through Australia. There will be daily updates of the journey on this blog, so check back here soon!

Thesis Research: Adolescents!

As our Longwood Graduate Program blog evolves, we are adding a few new features. Fellow authors will now be identified by name. And we will be sharing our thesis research progress and results!

I recently defended and completed my thesis research, An Analysis of Adolescent Involvement at Public Horticulture Institutions. I am excited to share the results with public garden educators, administrators, and anyone else who is interested! Since the complete document is around 150 pages, here I am just going to share my abstract and a few of my key figures and tables. If you would like to see the complete document, feel free to contact me at


While gardens typically offer educational programming for adults and elementary school-aged children, many institutions struggle with serving the teenage audience, defined in this research as youth ages 13-19. The purpose of this research is to investigate the current state of adolescent programming in order to aid and inspire institutions to create and implement positive development opportunities for teenagers, and to take on a greater role in the cultural and horticultural education of today’s adolescents.

Using a mixed methods approach, both qualitative and quantitative data were collected to characterize adolescent programming, as well as to identify the institutional benefits, the potential challenges, and the strategies of offering long-term adolescent programming. Institutional members of the American Public Gardens Association completed an initial survey. The Chicago Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden were selected to serve as case study sites representing large institutions; the perspectives of smaller institutions were captured through phone interviews with staff at the Delaware Center for Horticulture, Fellows Riverside Garden, and Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. A follow-up survey of directors of institutions offering long-term adolescent programming was also completed.

The results of the survey yielded statistics on the current state of adolescent programming, including the amount and types of programming being offered (Figure 1). Seven institutional benefits emerged, with the three major benefits being building relationships with new audiences, building interest in horticulture, and supporting the institution’s mission and growth (Table 1). And seven potential challenges were identified, with the three major challenges being funding, staff time, and adolescent interest (Table 2). A list of seven overarching strategies was also developed, highlighting the areas of high quality staff, curriculum, partnerships, youth decision-making, compensation, engaging activities, and evaluation (Table 3).

Figure 1: Combined results showing overall percentages of survey participants offering or not offering adolescent programming (n=190).

Table 1: Major and minor institutional benefits of offering long-term adolescent programming.

Table 2: Major and minor potential challenges of offering long-term adolescent programming.

Table 3: Strategies of offering long-term adolescent programming.