Identifying Knowledge in the Community
Submitted by Janice McMillan
This activity explores where we locate knowledge in our community. Participants examine the different kinds of knowledge they have gained. They also reflect on how some types of knowledge have more power than others, thus causing some voices to be deemed more important and valuable than others.
Participants will have a deeper appreciation for the multiplicity of knowledge in a community.
Participants will question how knowledge is valued in society and who or what is served by this ranking.
Set Up: Prepare for the Activity
Provide participants with crafting supplies, like different colored paper, tape, and markers for participants to construct their knowledge trees.
Organize participants into small groups (4-6 ppl).
Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.
Step One: Discuss Different Aspects of Knowledge (20 min)
As a full group, invite participants to share their thoughts about different aspects of knowledge. Ask: How do you know what you know?
Explore this further by using the following prompts:
What does the word “knowledge” mean to you? How is it different from intelligence, wisdom, experience? How might this word be expressed in other languages or contexts?
Where does knowledge come from? Can one be born with knowledge? How does one cultivate knowledge? Can knowledge be bought? Traded? Owned?
Who has knowledge? Who lacks it? Who is the most knowledgeable person you know?
Step Two: Reflect on Sources of Knowledge (10 min)
In small groups, invite participants to work together to create different colored shapes to represent various sources of knowledge:
Orange/brown strips of paper = roots (what you learned from your family/socialization)
Pink strips of paper = stems (what you learned at school/formal knowledge)
Blue strips of paper = branches (what you learned from experience)
Green “leaf shaped”/oval paper = leaves (what you learned from nature)
Yellow circles = buds (what you hope to learn from this workshop/class/gathering)
Ask participants to reflect on what they have learned from these different sources of knowledge and have them record this on the corresponding shapes/colors.
Step Three: Create Collective Knowledge Trees (15 min)
Next, invite them to imagine all the knowledge they have acquired in their lives as a tree. In their small groups, invite them to start building a shared knowledge tree together.
They can start to piece together different parts of the tree while discussing where various types of knowledge belong on the tree. Ask them to consider: Which sources of knowledge or specific things they know form the roots of their collective tree? The trunk? The branches? The leaves? The buds?
Discussants may answer this question differently. Some may consider the age of knowledge. For them, the first things they learned might constitute the roots of the tree. Others might determine that the most important or foundational knowledge should constitute the roots. Participants will discuss and navigate this together as they construct a single, collective knowledge tree.
Once each group is finished, invite them to place or hang their trees for other groups to see.
Step Four: Debrief as a Full Group (15 min)
When all trees are held or placed on the wall, have participants walk around the room to look at the different trees. Invite each group to briefly describe their tree.
What was common between the trees? Different? Surprising?
How did your group decide where to place different sources or pieces of knowledge on the tree?
How do the knowledge trees compare to how society values different types of knowledge?
This activity can be completed by any discussion group.
This activity is best implemented with in-person learning groups, requiring hands-on techniques that may not be easily replicated online.
This activity can be used to build trust and interpersonal connection.
This activity is focused on developing or supporting listening skills. See Sample Listening Certificate Program Design to illustrate sample sequencing.
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