Brown Environmental Leadership Lab: Rhode Island

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

2023 BELL Rhode Island students learning on the Brown University CampusThe Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL) combines concepts in environmental studies 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 two-week program will be based on the Brown University campus, with site visits throughout Rhode Island. Students will select from one of two course offerings. In the classroom and during outdoor experiential learning, you’ll work to better understand the causes and impacts of climate change, identify examples of environmental resilience and participate in science communication skill building. You’ll also dig into resources about environmental advocacy and environmental justice literacy while learning about socially responsible leadership. We will use the Brown campus as a site to explore the research that drives decisions in sustainability and the connections between people and the environment in the context of an urban setting, while you get to know your peers and instructional staff. During your time in the Ocean State, you will explore some of the ecosystems and communities discussed in the classroom.

After spending time at Brown University, you will embark on a two-night camping retreat at Round the Bend Farm in nearby Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Not only will you get to connect directly with your natural surroundings, you will also practice building a strong community with your other BELL Rhode Island participants, as you all navigate the challenge of living and learning outdoors. 

Over the course of your BELL experience, you will identify a pressing issue that you’re passionate about. With support from instructors and peers, you’ll develop an Action Plan to apply your new leadership knowledge to this issue when you return home.

Program Snapshot


Students completing grades 10 to 12, ages 16 to 18 by June 16, 2024


2-week program


Choose one course during one session

  • Sunday, July 7 to Friday, July 19


Southern New England: Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, Dartmouth, Massachusetts and various field trip sites.


  • Join a community of young scholars who are passionate about the environment while experiencing a part of the country or world that will be new to many students.
  • Develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to impact environmental issues facing your local community and the planet as a whole.
  • Explore spectacular landscapes by studying, listening and observing.
  • Concentrate on learning without the pressure of formal grades.
  • All students who successfully complete their course will receive a Certificate of Completion. Students who complete a BELL course will receive a Course Performance Report.


You are expected to reduce your cell phone use while at BELL, allowing you 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. While this may be an unfamiliar experience for some, it is often an aspect of the trip students appreciate most. You should plan ahead to be without your cell phone during most of the program, including the use of your phone’s camera. The group will always be reachable via the program cell phone, which will be held by the on-site staff. The phone number to the program cell phone will be provided to families of enrolled students prior to the program.

Some site visits listed are weather-dependent and subject to change. You can expect some physical activity every day and a moderate level of physical activity some days; be ready to get dirty as you’ll be out and about—rain or shine. A specific packing list will be provided for enrolled students.

Residential and Student Life

  • BELL has a strong emphasis on communal living, thus you will be engaged as a member of the community both in and out of the classroom. This includes attending an orientation and group initiatives to get to know your peers, contributing to daily community tasks (e.g., classroom set-up, breakfast buffet set-up, meal clean-up), and spending the whole day with the group. 
  • At Brown University, you will be staying in a residence hall room with shared bathrooms in a building exclusive to BELL: Rhode Island students and staff. You will share a room with one to four peers, grouped by gender identity.
  • Throughout the program, including during your time on the Brown University campus, residential and student life activities will be provided by the BELL: Rhode Island staff and will be limited to students in the BELL: Rhode Island program only.
  • During the overnight camping retreat, you will sleep in your own single-person tent in a primitive campsite. 
  • You can expect three meals each day, primarily served in a Brown University dining hall. Note: All While the Brown University dining halls offer a significant selection of food to meet most dietary needs, the food for off-campus meals is ordered in advance, so program staff must be notified of any dietary restrictions or allergies by March 29. Students can notify program staff by filling out the required forms, which enrolled students receive in their student portals.
  • Program staff live on site and are available 24 hours a day to provide support and supervision.

A Typical Day

BELL Rhode Island will provide you with an experience similar to being part of a research laboratory and all that entails. Though the term “lab” typically brings up imagery of standing over a microscope or collecting samples in small glass vials, there is much more that goes into being a member of a lab. Some days are more active than others and some days are more focused on concept development and exploration. Each day is different but typically includes group work, readings, classroom discussions, leadership workshops and time for team-building and reflection.

8:30 to 9:15 a.m. Breakfast
9:15 to 9:30 a.m. Community meeting
9:30 to 10 a.m. Community tasks (everyone pitches in)
10 to 11:30 a.m. Morning lesson or field trip
11:30 to Noon Break
Noon to 1 p.m. Lunch
1 to 2 p.m. Solo time (recharge, reflect and be by yourself)
2 to 5 p.m. Afternoon session or field trip continued
5 to 6 p.m. Free time
6 to 7 p.m. Dinner
7 to 9 p.m. Structured free time (e.g. leadership workshop, group hike, game night)
9 to 10 p.m. Free time
10 p.m. Well-deserved rest

Program Photos

Program Director

  • Photo of Jane B. Diener

    Jane Diener

    Associate Director, Pre-College Programs & Environmental Studies