Knowledge as Practice and the Search for Neighborhood-Based Solutions in the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures Field School

Esmé Hazel Barniskis


Exploring what it means to live, work, and socialize within local Milwaukee neighborhoods, the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures (BLC) Field School program takes students out of the classroom and into real-world learning environments. Over the course of three summers, the BLC Field School interviews, charts, documents, and synthesizes local historical data, oral histories, and current trends in a specific Milwaukee neighborhood. Beginning in 2014, the BLC Field School began to investigate the multicultural neighborhood of Washington Park, Milwaukee. While asked to document, the Field School participants are also asked to construct potential resolutions to neighborhood-based social issues. These social issues are defined as wicked problems, with potential resolutions relying necessarily on the understanding of the problem itself. Thus problem understanding and problem resolution occur as pieces of the larger learning experience. Henri Lefebvre’s conceptualization of social space and social constructivism places the Washington Park neighborhood as a central component in the fieldwork of the program, and requires critical analysis of space and place within communities. Through active immersion and practice as forms of knowledge, students are able to look beyond narrow definitions of community and neighborhoods and instead point to complexities present when attempting to analyze fluid social realities. Using five interviews as reflective evidence for learning gains from the BLC Field School, framing of knowledge and learning as practice consistently emerges. Rather than self-reflective metacognitive activities, knowledge formed through and by practice links individuals into larger knowledge networks. These larger networks of student collaborators, community members, and organizational groups share knowledge in the hopes of creating long-lasting and effective resolutions to some of the Washington Park neighborhood’s wicked problems.


Knowledge as practice, immersive learning, social issues, social space, metacognition

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