On Oct. 10 and 13, Assistant Middle Eastern History Professor Dr. Steve Tamari presented students in his Ottoman History class opportunities for hands-on, experiential learning with trips to the SIUE Gardens and the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
In Tamari’s class, students have been learning about the culture, history, and influence of the Ottoman Empire, and one important aspect of the Ottoman culture was its horticulture.
“The Ottomans were accomplished horticulturalists,” says Tamari, “and many of the plant and tree species we take for granted, like tulips, carnations, and willow trees, came to us via Europe from the Ottoman Empire.”
Tamari began his students’ experiential learning with a trip to the SIUE Gardens during their class period on Wednesday, October 10th. At the Gardens, Director Jane Drake taught students about grafting, which is essentially combining the tissues of two different plants to create one plant.
The Ottomans, in their horticultural practices, used grafting, and many cultures throughout history have used the method as well.
“Over time, grafting has transformed the way humans work with plants and is responsible for significant improvements in food systems in particular,” Drake explains.
While at the Gardens, Drake discussed the history of grafting, showed students grafted plants at the Gardens, and led them in performing grafting themselves. The Gardens at SIUE provided an in-depth, experiential opportunity for students in Tamari’s history class to learn about the horticultural method right on campus.
“Our 35-acre botanical garden is a terrific resource for classes all across campus,” Drake says. “I am always happy to co-teach a special lesson like Dr. Tamari’s grafting visit.”
Tamari’s class trip to the Gardens served as a part of the foundation of horticultural knowledge that led to students being able to actually explore an Ottoman garden. The Missouri Botanical Gardens is home to the Bakewell Ottoman Garden, which is the only public example of a royal Ottoman garden in existence.
The Ottoman History class trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens was funded by an ENRICH Course Enhancement Grant, an initiative from the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. ENRICH offers all SIUE faculty opportunities to incorporate learning in the classroom with experiences in the outer community.
Once Tamari and his students arrived at the Botanical Gardens, they were given a private, informative tour by Sara Murphy, the staff horticulturalist who takes care of the Bakewell Ottoman Garden. At the garden, Murphy led Tamari and his class through the Turkish flora, fountains, and architectural structures.
The Ottoman History class trip to the Bakewell Ottoman Garden proved to be a great supplement to the SIUE Gardens grafting lesson as well as Tamari’s classroom lessons.
“By the time we visited the Ottoman Garden at the Botanical Gardens, [the students] knew those facts [about the Ottomans],” Tamari says, “but actually seeing how a royal Ottoman garden was laid out, how ornamental plants were integrated with herbs and other functional varieties, and how running water exemplified the Ottoman aesthetic and made the history we have studied come to life.”
Thanks to the ENRICH grant, the cooperation of the SIUE Gardens, and Tamari’s eagerness to make history come alive, SIUE students were able to enjoy a unique and undoubtedly unforgettable learning experience.
Filed Under: Historical Studies