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In Albert Kahn’s garden:from a sensorial course to a traveller’s diary
Wednesday 17 December 2008
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Albert Kahn’s Paris gardens are, like any garden, a perceptible and physical context; they appear to us with colours, smells and sounds, tactile feelings; these feelings, stored in voluntary or involuntary memory, are a source for imagination.


- To stimulate sensorial exploration
- To appeal to imagination
- To structure languages


- To perceive sensations in a reasoned way
- To use tools that enable awareness of these sensations
- To learn to articulate verbal and plastic language.



- “windows? and other variously shaped centring tools
- mirrors
- notebooks, paper chalk, pastel crayons
- cameras, pencils
- scarves
- collecting boxes, a press


- Albert Kahn’s garden or views of that garden
- Aline Rutily’s « Carnets de jardins » (Garden notebooks)


- 1) List sensations

>When you are in a garden, how can you pay more attention to what you perceive rather than to what you know or think you know?


Ask the children to single out details to be observed in a Japanese garden: the outline of the portico or the red bridge that cross over the pond, the details of the statue of a dragon or the bronze lanterns, the veins in the stone, the line of the stone-paved paths, the dwarf trees pruned the Japanese way, the various very wide perspectives exposed to their gaze.

Make them pick out the various shapes in a fruit garden: apple trees, pear trees, plum trees pruned in the shape of a distaff, a spindle, a beaker or a sphere…

With their eyes they follow the regular lines of the alleys and lawns of a formal garden, the symmetry of its flowerbeds, the layout of the patches of colour, the details of the architecture of the “Palmarium greenhouse"

Get them to grasp the details of the flowers as they look at them from a short distance, or the patches they make when seen form afar, of the winding lines of a landscape garden…

The children make palettes and colour charts with pastel crayons: they pick out the shades of the plants, from the “Blue Forest? to the “Vosges Forest?, the splendid pinks of the Japanese cherry trees, the wide range of the reds of the azaleas, turning purplish-blue or orange, the reds of the maple-trees, in autumn…

They use the mirrors to create surprising effects, to brake the scale. Keep traces of these experiments on photographs…



The children move about in the garden, blindfolded, for a better exploration and comparison of the tactile characteristics of its elements.

They bring back, classify, keep and choose elements that will be stored in the pages of the notebook : samples of earth, plant elements fallen to the ground, twigs …


With the same tools, they list smells: the fragrance of flowers, of some leaves, of fruit, of the earth, of grass.

sound elements (bird songs, for example) :

With the same approach they can be recorded while they walk about in order to make a catalogue of sounds to explore, identify, qualify…

2) Language structure:

During each step, words and sentences are written down in order to

- qualify the sensations they have listed
- express what everyone feels

Mental images spring from this articulation between various languages; choices are made, they create their own personal itinerary, which will structure the realisation of each “travel diary?.



To gather information about

- the history of Albert Kahn’s garden, of the Albert Kahn Museum
- the work of Albert Kahn
- garden vegetation (trees, plants with or without flowers…)
- the animals which live in a garden


It will measure the diversity of

- what has been collected
- projects of plastic realisations
- the interest given to Albert Kahn’s work.


Aline Rutily conseillère pédagogique Arts visuels Saint Germain -en-Laye (Yvelines) France


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