Brown Environmental Leadership Lab: Rhode Island

Examine the impact of humans on ecosystems in the context of global climate change.

BELL RI students in a stream gathering a sample.The Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL) combines concepts in environmental studies, ecology and leadership, with a mission of developing socially responsible leaders. At BELL, you’ll embark on a journey of learning and reflection while building community with the fellow student environmentalists in your program.

This 11-day course will take you to Barrington, Rhode Island, 40 minutes south of Providence. Your home base will be the St. Andrew’s School campus, a school founded in 1893 that is located near Hundred Acre Cove, a wetland and popular birding spot that opens to the Barrington River. In the classroom and during outdoor labs, you’ll work to better understand the causes and impacts of climate change and identify examples of environmental resilience. You’ll also develop resources and skills for environmental advocacy and environmental justice literacy while learning about socially responsible leadership.

On your Ocean State adventure, you will also learn about the history of the land from members of the Narragansett Tribe and journey to Block Island where you’ll participate in an ongoing research project through the Nature Conservancy. In addition, you will visit Brown University where you’ll be treated to a special behind-the-scenes sustainability tour of campus.

Over the course of your BELL experience, you’ll also identify a pressing issue that you’re passionate about. With support from instructors and peers, you’ll formulate an Action Plan to apply your new leadership knowledge to this issue when you return home. (Wondering what this looks like? Check out past examples.)

Program Snapshot

Who

Students completing grades 9–12, ages 15–18 by June 19, 2022

What

12-day course

When

Choose one session:

  • Sunday, June 26 – Thursday, July 7
  • Sunday, July 10 – Thursday, July 21

Where

St. Andrew’s School, Barrington, Rhode Island (and various field trip sites throughout Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts)

Why

  • Join a community of young scholars who are passionate about the environment while experiencing a new part of the country or world.
  • Develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to impact environmental issues facing your local community and the planet as a whole.
  • Explore some spectacular landscapes by studying, listening and observing.
  • Concentrate on learning without the pressure of formal grades.
  • Receive a Course Performance Report and Certificate of Completion when you finish.

Experience

  • You’ll be staying in air-conditioned residence hall style housing at St. Andrew’s School in Barrington, Rhode Island. You may share a room with one or two peers, separated by gender identity, and will have your own bed. 
  • Program staff live on-site and are available 24 hours a day to provide support and supervision.

You can expect three nutritious meals each day, primarily served in an on-site dining area. 

Note: All food is ordered in advance, so program staff must be notified of any dietary restrictions or allergies by April 13.

Some site visits listed are weather-dependent.

  • Block Island Nature Conservancy research site on Block Island: Just twelve miles off the coast of Rhode Island, Block Island is a wildlife hotspot, providing habitat for many plants and animals that disappeared from the rest of southern New England decades ago. Today, nearly half the island is permanently protected for people and nature. 
  • Block Island Wind Farm: Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island is America’s first offshore wind farm. The 30 MW, 5-turbine project began commercial operations in December 2016 and generates enough energy to power 17,000 homes.
  • Brown University: Students spend the day at Brown University, where they can use the facilities there to complete their Action Plan project research. They will also meet with Brown faculty for a sustainability tour of the campus, engage with Brown University undergraduates during a panel and small group discussions, and eat in a campus dining facility.
  • Narragansett Bay Commission Water Treatment Facility: With over 400 miles of coastline, it’s difficult to imagine any Rhode Islander left unaffected by the Bay’s benefits. The Bay provides not only aesthetic joys and recreational enrichment, but also an influx of revenues that contributes to the fiscal well-being of the state.
  • Round the Bend Farm: a working farm and educational non-profit in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The Farm is devoted to the global paradigm shift toward hope and abundance by valuing diversity, modeling nature, and redefining wealth.
  • Tomaquag Museum: The Mission of Tomaquag Museum is to educate the public and promote thoughtful dialogue regarding Indigenous history, culture, arts, and Mother Earth and connect to Native issues of today.

BELL students are expected to reduce their cell phone use, allowing them to fully engage with the community and beautiful surroundings. By breaking ties to these technologies, you will be able to be more mindful of the natural environment and build more intentional friendships. On-site staff will review more details about the expectations surrounding cell phone use for students once they are on site. While this may be an unfamiliar experience for many students, it is often an aspect of the trip students appreciate most.

  • The summer weather in Rhode Island can vary. Please check the weather forecast for Barrington, RI before departure and pack accordingly.
  • You can expect a moderate level of physical activity every day; be ready to get dirty as you’ll be out and about—rain or shine.
  • A specific packing list will be provided for accepted students.

A Typical Day

Each day is different but typically includes lab work, field observations, classroom discussions, leadership workshops and time for team-building, recreation and reflection.

8:00 – 9:00 am Breakfast
9:00 – 9:30 am Community tasks (everyone pitches in)
9:30 – 11:30 am Morning session (Example: field trip to a water treatment facility)
11:30 am – 12:00 pm Free time
12:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch (students help with set-up and clean-up)
1:00 – 2:00 pm Solo time (recharge, reflect and be by yourself)
2:00 – 5:00 pm Afternoon session (Example: science communication)
5:00 – 6:00 pm Free time
6:00 – 7:00 pm Dinner (students help with set-up and clean-up)
7:00 – 7:45 pm Recreation time
7:45 – 9:00 pm Evening session (Example: Active Listening Skills workshop)
9:00 – 10:00 pm Free time
10:00 pm Well-deserved rest

Program Director

  • Photo of Jane B. Diener

    Jane Diener

    Associate Director, Pre-College Programs & Environmental Studies