experiential Learning, community engagement, service learning, Inside-Out
Service learning has evolved as a primary experience-based curriculum for undergraduate students. But much of what universities put forward as service learning is not a genuine engagement with community partners to help advance meaningful social change to address social problems. In this paper, we outline our preliminary attempt to do just that—what we call The Bridge Model. The discussion that follows occurs in the context of a semester-long project between undergraduate students at a Midwestern University (MU) and incarcerated participants from the university’s prison education program. First, we briefly situate the partnership in terms of its theoretical background in experiential learning and focus on critical service learning. Second, we explain the nature of our collaboration in terms of its aims and framework. Third, we position our Bridge model as a helpful alternative on a continuum with another prominent form of alliance—the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Fourth, we provide project samples that typify our model. Fifth, we outline the value of our approach to service learning using data derived from student reflection papers and lay out some of the challenges we faced in the project’s implementation. Finally, we contemplate the road ahead.
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