Brown Environmental Leadership Lab: Rhode Island

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

BELL: Rhode Island 2023 has reached capacity.

Please consider our Summer@Brown Biological and Natural Sciences courses.

BELL Rhode Island summer 2022 cohort.
One of the BELL: Rhode Island 2022 cohorts.

The 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. 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 learn about the history of the land from members of the Narragansett Tribe and journey around the state to explore some of the ecosystems or communities discussed in the classroom.

After spending time at Brown University, you will embark on an overnight camping retreat. 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 18, 2023


2-week program


Choose one session:

  • Sunday, June 25 to Friday, July 7, 2023
  • Sunday, July 9 to Friday, July 21, 2023


Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island (and various field trip sites throughout Rhode Island). 


  • 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.
  • Receive a Course Performance Report and Certificate of Completion when you successfully finish.


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 collect students’ phones and return them during specific parts of the program, including off-site field trips. While this may be an unfamiliar experience for many students, it is often an aspect of the trip students appreciate most. We expect students to plan ahead to be without their cell phones during most of the program, however 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 accepted students prior to the program. 

Some site visits listed are weather-dependent and subject to change. 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.

Residential and Student Life

  • At Brown University, you will be staying in a residence hall room with shared bathrooms. While you will be staying on campus, you will be staying in a building exclusive to the BELL: Rhode Island students and staff. 
  • 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 overnight camping, you will sleep in your own single-person tent in a primitive campsite.  During this portion of the trip, you will not have access to showers.
  • You can expect three meals each day, primarily served in a Brown University dining hall. Note: All food is ordered in advance, so program staff must be notified of any dietary restrictions or allergies by April 12. Students can notify program staff by filling out the medical health history form, which accepted 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 a.m. to 9 a.m. Breakfast
9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Community tasks (everyone pitches in)
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Morning lesson or field trip
11:30 a.m. to Noon Break
Noon to 1 p.m. Lunch (students help with set-up and clean-up)
1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Solo time (recharge, reflect and be by yourself)
2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Afternoon lesson or field trip
5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Free time
6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dinner (students help with set-up and clean-up)
7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Evening lesson
9 p.m. 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