students in the lab

Environmental Leadership: Rhode Island

Environmental Action, Ecological Resilience, Socially Responsible Leadership.

Summer 2019 Application Opens in December

Brown Environmental Leadership Labs (BELL) combines content in environmental advocacy, ecology, leadership, and field methods, with a mission of developing socially responsible leaders. BELL gives students the tools they need to create positive change on environmental issues facing their local communities and the planet as a whole.

We will help students develop a deep understanding of the complex and widespread effects of climate change that influence international scientific research and ample opportunities for citizen science. Over the course of two weeks, we will use a variety of ecosystems to study the impacts and implications of global climate change. Students will see those impacts firsthand and spend time connecting the scientific evidence with forms of environmental advocacy that they can bring back to their own communities. Working to reverse the negative impacts of global climate change requires a multidisciplinary, bipartisan approach and BELL students will spend two weeks learning about the many factors that go into decisions, action, and widespread education that can lead to change. Learning will be fast-paced, experiential, and include widely diverse perspectives.

This summer, students at BELL: Rhode Island will live and study at the pristine Whispering Pines Conference Center at the W. Alton Jones Environmental Education Center in West Greenwich, Rhode Island. Students will work to better understand the causes and impacts of climate change and identify examples environmental resilience. Additionally, students will be encouraged and empowered to develop solutions to environmental issues occurring in their own communities.

Areas of Focus:

  • Resources and skills for developing perspective on environmental advocacy
  • Ideas for engaging in environmental action
  • Information on careers in environmental science or policy
  • Campus visit to Brown University including student panels and academic presentations
  • Impact of humans on ecosystems in the context of global climate change
  • Outdoor labs, including:
    • Herpetology, including amphibian and reptile identification
    • Water and air quality assessment
    • Wetland, forest, and stream ecology
  • Environmental dispute resolution and policy
  • Environmental justice literacy and context

Create an Action Plan and Take Your Learning Home

Socially responsible leadership is a lifelong pursuit that requires ongoing learning and reflection.

During your time at BELL: Rhode Island, you will identify a pressing issue that you are passionate about. With support from faculty and peers you will create an Action Plan to apply your new leadership knowledge to this issue upon return to you home community.

We encourage students to think about some potential Action Plan topics before they come to BELL, but most students 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.

Program Dates:

Two Week Sessions
July 1 – 12, 2018
July 15 – 26, 2018

Eligibility: For students completing grades 9-12, ages 15-18 by June 2018

Application deadline: Monday, April 9, 2018

Fees: $4,391

Note: This program is offered at a different site than previous BELL RI courses.

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Lake Eisenhower

Life at the BELL: Rhode Island

Life Outdoors

A large portion of our time will be spent outdoors during the program. Students can expect a moderate level of physical activity every day, and should be ready to participate in outdoor activities outdoors in all temperatures and weather conditions. We will take regular breaks to hydrate and we will limit sun exposure, however students are expected to bring essentials such as hats, water bottles, and sun protection.


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, and will sleep on separate mattresses in beds. All indoor facilities at Whispering Pines are air conditioned.


Students can expect three nutritious meals each day, primarily served in a dining area. We will work with the dining staff to make accommodations for dietary restrictions and food allergies if we are notified in advance.

Unplugging from Devices

Our 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 us to more fully engage with our 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 our ties to these technologies, we are able to be more mindful of our natural environment, build more intentional friendships, and practice self-reflection.

Your program fee includes:

  • Tuition for the course
  • All lodging as part of the course
  • 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
Lodging, all named for the trees in surrounding forest

A Typical Day

Each day is different, but the basic schedule begins at 8:30am and ends at 10:00pm. Throughout the program there will be outdoor activities, debates, discussions and interactions with local leaders and Brown faculty. In addition to coursework, students participate in community time to discuss current events, sharpen leadership skills, and simply have fun together in a beautiful place.

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

Please call us and ask to speak to the Program Director if any of these details are of concern so we can make sure you have enough information to make an informed decision about participation.

Important Considerations

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, including a reusable water bottle to fill and use throughout the program.

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. We will take regular breaks, but students are expected to be prepared for outdoor lessons in a variety of conditions (heat, cold, light rain, wind).

Students will not have access to electronic devices apart from designated times during the program. Students will be within close distance of emergency responders and emergency medical facilities, however there is not a full time medical professional on-site. Families will have a contact number to reach their student in the case of an emergency.

Our staff lives on site and is available to the students 24 hours a day for support and supervision.

Outdoor seating for lessons or free time
Admission Criteria
Beautiful hike located just steps away from our lodging

Admission Criteria

Summer 2019 Application Opens in December

Prospective students must apply for admission. When evaluating applications, the Admissions Review Committee looks for academic excellence, intellectual curiosity, social maturity, self-motivation and a readiness for participation in an independent academic environment.

A Complete Application Consists of the Following Items:

  1. A Completed Application Form
    Parents and Students: Please be sure to create only one account per applicant.
    Your application provides basic information about you. In addition, students should be prepared to write an essay telling us:
    • what you hope to learn in the program to which you are applying;
    • why this is of interest to you;
    • what contributions you hope to make;
    • and any further information you want to convey to us.
  2. A Non-refundable Application Fee (payable securely by credit card within the Student Portal)
    One application fee per application submitted
    Before 3/2/2018: $50
    3/2/2018 to 4/29/2018: $75
    4/30/2018 and after: $100
  3. An Academic Transcript or Grade Report
    Applicants must submit grades for the 2017-2018 academic term and two previous academic years. Acceptable forms include, but are not limited to, progress reports, report cards, transcripts and unofficial transcripts. Documentation must include your full name and an explanation of the scoring system in English. Applicants will upload this material in the student portal after they have submitted their application form. Academic records do NOT need to be submitted by your school or guidance counselor.
  4. A Teacher Recommendation
    Within the application applicants must submit the name and email address of a teacher who can attest to the applicant’s capabilities in a classroom setting. An email will be sent to the recommender to provide feedback to the Admission Review Committee.

Please note:

  • In some cases, additional application materials may be requested. Additional materials may include transcripts, essays, or teacher recommendations.
  • Applications will not be reviewed by the Admission Review Committee until they are complete.
  • Program admission does not guarantee enrollment in a specific course.
  • Courses may be cancelled at any time due to unforeseen circumstance.
  • Please wait to make travel arrangements until the program is confirmed.

Notification of Admission Decision

Applicants will be notified by email to log into their Student Portal to view their admission decision once it has been made.

May 2018 Update: Our admissions team carefully reviews each application submitted. Due to the high volume of applications and selectivity of our programs, admissions decisions will be made within fifteen business days of receipt of a complete application.

Confirming Attendance with a Program Deposit

Accepted students must confirm their attendance by submitting a $300 non-refundable program deposit. Students attending more than one program must submit a $300 non-refundable deposit for each program. Students will not be able to enroll in courses until a program deposit is received.


Student and parents are encouraged to review our Policies page to learn about important payment deadlines, refunds, code of conduct, and more.

Important Information for International Students

Brown University Pre-College programs welcome applications from international students. Learn about English language proficiency requirements, Immigration Guidelines, Deadlines for Submitting Documentation, How to Apply for a Visa, and more on our International Students page.