Environmental Leadership: Rhode Island

Environmental action, ecological resilience, socially responsible leadership

The Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL) combines concepts in environmental studies, ecology, and leadership, with a mission of developing socially responsible leaders. At BELL, students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to create positive change on environmental issues facing their local communities and the planet as a whole.

This summer, students at BELL: Rhode Island will live and study off-site at the pristine Whispering Pines Conference Center in West Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Students will work to better understand the causes and impacts of climate change and identify examples of environmental resilience. Additionally, students will be encouraged and empowered to develop solutions to environmental issues occurring in their own communities.

students in the lab

Areas of Focus:

  • Resources and skills for developing perspective on environmental advocacy
  • Impact of humans on ecosystems in the context of global climate change
  • Environmental justice literacy and context
  • Socially responsible leadership

Create an Action Plan and Take the Learning Home

Socially responsible leadership is a lifelong pursuit that requires ongoing learning and reflection. During BELL: RI, students will identify a pressing issue that they are passionate about. With support from faculty and peers, students will create an Action Plan to apply new leadership knowledge to this issue upon return to their home communities.

Students are encouraged to think about potential Action Plan topics before they come to BELL, but most develop their ideas during the program. For example, past students have established community gardens, written a grant to install solar panels, and coordinated an e-waste collection. More Action Plan final reports can be found here: Action Plan library.

Learn for the sake of learning

The BELL Programs provide challenging academic opportunities without the pressure of formal grades, allowing students to concentrate on learning, and the process of scholarship and discovery. In lieu of a final grade, students will receive a Course Performance Report and Certificate of Completion after successful completion of the program.

2020 Program Dates

June 28 - July 9
July 12 - July 23


For students completing grades 9-12, ages 15-18 by June 2021. Students must be at least 15 years old to participate in residential experience.

Information Sessions

magnifying glass Courses

BELL students during a lake ecology field methods lesson

Life at BELL: Rhode Island

Life Outdoors

The goal at BELL: Rhode Island is to explore beautiful surroundings through both formal study and spending time observing and listening. Students can expect a moderate level of physical activity most days, and should be ready to participate in outdoor activities outdoors in all temperatures and weather conditions.


Students will be staying in hotel-style housing at the Whispering Pines Conference Center. Students will be housed with 1 – 2 of their peers, separated by gender identity, and will sleep in separate beds. All indoor facilities at Whispering Pines are air conditioned. Staff live on site and are available to the students 24 hours a day for support and supervision.


Students can expect three nutritious meals each day, primarily served in a dining area. As all food is ordered in advance of the program, students must notify program staff of any dietary restrictions and allergies. We will work with the dining staff to make accommodations for dietary restrictions and food allergies if we are notified by April 15.

Unplugging from Devices

Students turn in their electronic devices on the first day of BELL. Although some students may initially have concerns about this practice, they soon begin to enjoy this unique opportunity to disconnect from electronic devices. Reducing distractions allows students to more fully engage with the community and beautiful surroundings. We ask students (and families) to limit cell phone use to times when students have their phones, which will be specified in advance. By breaking ties to these technologies, students are able to be more mindful of the natural environment and build more intentional friendships.

Program Fee includes:

  • Tuition for the course
  • All lodging as part of the course
  • Textbooks and classroom supplies
  • Breakfasts, lunches, dinners
  • Transportation to Whispering Pines from Brown University on arrival day
  • If needed, transportation to TF Green Airport or Brown University campus on the final day of the program

Not included in Program Fee:

  • Pre/post-program accommodations
  • Travel to/from Providence, RI
  • Additional spending money
BELL students participating in ongoing research with The Nature Conservancy on Block Island
BELL students participating in ongoing research with The Nature Conservancy on Block Island


5 Exciting Things About BELL: RI »


A Typical Day

While each day at BELL: Rhode Island is different, the schedule typically begins at 8:30am and ends at 10:00pm.

Sample day schedule:

8:00 - 9:00am Breakfast. Students help with set-up and clean-up
9:00 - 9:30am Community tasks (everyone pitches in)
9:30 - 11:30am Class time
11:30 - 12:00am Free time
12:00 - 1:00pm Lunch. Students help with set-up and clean-up
1:00 - 2:00pm Solo Time (recharge, reflect, and be by yourself)
2:00 - 5:00pm Class time
5:00 - 6:00pm Free time
6:00 - 7:00pm Dinner. Students help with set-up and clean-up
7:00 - 7:45pm Recreation time
7:45 - 9:00pm Evening Program
9:00 - 10:00pm Free Time
10:00pm In rooms

Staying Safe and Comfortable in the Field

The summer weather in Rhode Island can vary. Please check the weather forecast for West Greenwich, RI (Zip code: 02817) before departure and pack accordingly.

Students will be active for at least a part of each day. Some days will include activities such as hiking, wading in wetlands or streams, or standing outside for lessons.

About the Program Director: Jane B. Diener

Assistant Director, Environmental and Location-Based Programs

Jane received her B.S. in Forest Resources, Interdisciplinary Certificate in University Teaching, and Ph.D. in Forest Resources from the University of Georgia (UGA). Prior to joining the Brown Pre-College team in September 2017, Jane worked as the Sustainability Coordinator for University Housing at UGA, where she ran educational programs to promote environmentally conscious decisions among the 8,000 students living on campus. During the summers of 2014, 2015, and 2016, Jane worked part time for the BELL: Rhode Island. In her current role with Brown Pre-College Programs, she is responsible for planning and overseeing all BELL programs, including Alaska, Florida Keys, and Rhode Island. Jane is passionate about environmental advocacy and fulfilled by this role, which allows her to facilitate a unique experience for high school students each summer.


An Interview with BELL Program Director Jane B. Diener »

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