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A Day in the Botanic garden of Padova
Sunday 14 December 2008
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PROJECT

Discover through observing and inquiring the history and role of the first academic botanic garden of the occidental world: the botanic garden of Padova (Italy).

OBJECTIVES

- to link history, sciences and visual arts
- to explore and account for a place sharpening one’s observation capacities, by developing one’s relation to time and space

SKILLS

- to bring to the fore a botanic garden features
- to observe, write down, take down sketches
- to classify the type of plants observed
- to link the botanic collections observed with the different features of an environment

MATERIALS

- cameras
- notebooks, pencils
- a garden map (cf. document attached to this track)

REFERENCES

- The Botanic Garden of Padova
- The map and texts in relation to the garden (cf. document attached to this track)
- Representations of medieval gardens
- http://www.ortobotanico.unipd.it/or…

PROCEDURES

Beforehand:

- read the documents referring to the history of the Botanic Garden of Padova
- read documents referring to the history of intellectual life during the European Renaissance: the role of the first botanic gardens or simple gardens; the first universities

Visit the Botanic Garden:

The map, garden architecture

Use a notebook, camera, to take down through sketches and annotations some formal features of the garden map: the enclosed garden, the circular plan, the dividing up the garden into four parts oriented according to the four cardinal points, themselves divided into many geometric shapes, the presence of many statues and buildings (greenhouses, museum…)

The comparison with the medieval garden map shows the Renaissance botanic garden retains some Middle-Age features: walls, the “mystical circular shape symbolic of the cosmos, the field geometric division, and the “simple medicinal gardens.

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The collections

List, draw, and write down the plant family names composing the garden.

- insectivore plants
- medicinal and poisonous plants: the medicinal plants remind that the first purpose of the Botanic Garden created in 1545 is to collect “simples, labelled plants indicating their pharmaceutical properties as well as their names.

Plants from the Euganean hills and rare plants from the Three Venities answer the fundamental objectives of the botanic gardens: study, make known to the public the most characteristic plants existing in the country where the garden is and keep the plants in danger of extinction. Precise this botanic garden belongs to the Padova University created in 1222 and the most avant-gardist University of Italy during the Renaissance. It greeted Copernic as a student and Galileo as a teacher in the 16th century. In the University you can find:

- the first steady anatomy amphitheatre of whole Europe, that is to say of the whole world
- the first European academic botanic garden, that is to say of the whole world

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The environment features:

Observe the different natural environments reconstituted in the garden by listing the plants growing in it: the Mediterranean bush, the alpine garden, fresh water environment, desert environment of the succulent plants, tropical environment of the orchid greenhouse.

Realise from these observations the features determining an environment: the type of ground, the temperature, the water quantity, and the sun radiance.

FOLLOW-ON-ACTIVITIES

- Work biology (see tracks called “Life in the garden)
- Work history: link the Botanic Garden role to other elements relating the Renaissance humanism, at the beginning of Modern Europe: great discoveries, medicine, astronomy, expansion of trade and banks, artistic and cultural life (many works at Padova painted by Giotto, Titien…)
- Create artistic works linked with this visit: travel book, model, “pocket-garden

ASSESSMENT

Capacity for the pupil to use the knowledge acquired during the visit:

- the botanic garden role from the Renaissance period
- the features of a natural environment
- the botanic collection diversity
- humanism, intellectual life at the Renaissance age


Aline Rutily Conseillère pédagogique en Arts Visuels Saint Germain-en-Laye (Yvelines) France

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