Life at Brown Environmental Leadership Lab: Rhode Island
Environmental Science and Social Action for High School Students
BELL students learn and live close to nature at Brown’s Haffenreffer Estate on Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island. The Bay is a major economic driver in the region, including seafood provision and recreation. Its watershed is one of the most densely populated sections in the country. Climate change puts all of these at risk so it is an excellent place to learn about the challenges of protecting the environment while meeting human needs.
Unplugging from Devices
In a world constantly connected to iPhones, email, Twitter, and Facebook, students at BELL intentionally unplug for the better part of two weeks which allows us to more fully engage with our community and beautiful surroundings. Students hand in all electronic devices on the first day and cell phones are returned twice during the program to call home. 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.
Sleeping quarters are large (16x 24’) tents set off the ground on wooden platforms. There are between 8-10 students per tent, separated by gender, sleeping on mattresses in bunk beds. Students should bring a sleeping bag or sheets, a blanket and pillow for an extra-long twin bed. Please see the packing list for other linens to bring.
There are hot indoor showers and toilets located in the multi-purpose building just a short walk from the tents. The building also houses our only indoor classroom, living room and shared recreational space. In addition, we have a well-equipped kitchen and abundant outdoor areas for all types of activities and sports.
A Typical Day at BELL
Each day is different, but the basic schedule begins at 8:30am and ends at 10:00pm. There are several field trips, 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.
- 8:30 – 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 – 12:00: 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 tent
2016 Tentative Schedule
Subject to change depending on weather conditions and other factors.
First week activities
- Build and use solar ovens
- Conduct citizen science and add to regional data sets
- Understand situational leadership and gain insight into your preferred leadership style
- Practice active listening, clear communication, and feedback skills
- Visit a local farm to see the importance of local food movements
- Simulate an environmental negotiation by role-playing various stakeholders
- Learn about the Social Change Model of Leadership Development
- Participate in a Challenge Course and practice group problem solving
- Tour a nationally-recognized green stormwater treatment system
- Try harvesting clams with a local fisherman on his boat in Narragansett Bay
*Please note: students will have the opportunity to taste fresh, raw shellfish. This local delicacy is considered safe to enjoy unless you have a shellfish allergy or a suppressed immune system. Please notify us if either apply.
Second week activities
- Study the water quality and coastal resource management of Mt. Hope Bay
- Grapple with issues of environmental justice and systemic inequality
- Quantify the changing presence of invasive species in the forest and coast
- Visit Brown University for the day, explore the campus, eat in a dining hall, meet faculty and students
- Participate in a public speaking workshop
- Read and discuss different formats and methods of science communication
- Kayak on Mt. Hope Bay to identify coastal ecosystem services
- Develop and present an Action Plan to bring your learning home
To facilitate a safe and positive learning experience for each student and the community, we expect students to be able to:
- Walk or stay outdoors for up to 3 hours at a time (with a few scheduled breaks)
- Tolerate variable weather conditions (rain, humidity, wind, heat)
- Sleep in shared areas (e.g. tents, dorm-style accommodations) with 2-5 same-sex peers
- Self-manage and administer prescription medications, if applicable
- Listen, absorb, and process information outside a classroom setting (e.g. outdoors, cultural sites)
- Be flexible with schedule changes due to weather or other factors
- Spend extended periods of time away from cell phones and portable music players (from several hours to several days, depending on the program)
- Participate in an immersive, living-learning community with limited personal time
- Respect and learn from other cultures, traditions, and perspectives
- Communicate significant health, safety, and personal concerns to program staff
Please call us and ask to speak to the Program Director if any of these things are of concern so we can make sure you have enough information about the particular program, as well as options for case-by-case accommodations, to make an effective decision about participation.