Pre-College Programs
Students Engage in Learning about the Environment at Haffenreffer Estate

Life at Brown Environmental Leadership Lab: Rhode Island

Sustainable Development for High School Students

Life Outdoors

BELL students learn and live close to nature at Brown’s Haffenreffer Estate on Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island. The site is a perfect setting for learning about human impacts on the environment. 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. Consequently, it is an excellent place to learn about the challenges of protecting the environment while meeting human needs. With this great laboratory at our doorstep, we spend much of our time on its shores, fields, and forests.


Environmental Leadership in Rhode Island

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 and includes field research, educational sessions on the environment and leadership, and time for team-building, recreation and reflection. There are many field trips, hikes on the property, 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.

There are also several special days when the schedule is different. These include:

Your fellow students

There are approximately 32 students in each BELL session. BELL students come from all over the U.S. and the world, and range from incoming 10th graders to graduated seniors.

Closing program

A closing program is held at BELL on the final Friday of the course. We will have a barbecue lunch, and you will present your Action Plan to a small group of students and family members. It is an important opportunity for your family to visit the site, see where you’ve lived, hear what you’ve learned and discover how you want to put it into action back home. More details about the Closing Program will be posted on the Accepted Student webpage.


Environmental Leadership in Rhode Island

Students can expect three healthy meals and an afternoon snack prepared by an experienced on-site chef each day. We will work with our chef to make accommodations for dietary restrictions and food allergies if we are notified in advance.

Students must communicate their allergies on the Medical Authorization form before the program. Dietary preferences, including vegetarians and vegans, should be indicated on the Guest Allergy Form.

Staying safe and comfortable in the field

Our goal is to get to know the environments we visit through formal study and hands-on activities. We believe strongly in experiential education and learning-by-doing. Water will be available at all times so please bring a reusable water bottle to use throughout the program. Many minor medical problems are related to dehydration, so it is very important that students stay hydrated.

Summer weather in New England can vary greatly. At times, it is 90 degrees and humid while other weeks it can be in the low 50s at night. Please check the weather for Bristol, RI (02809) before your program and pack accordingly. It is always a good idea to pack layers.

Clothes should be comfortable and students should be prepared to get dirty, especially when conducting intertidal field work. Students should also be prepared to work through light rain by bringing a raincoat. There are no laundry machines available so please pack lightly yet accordingly. A full packing list will be provided on the Accepted Student webpage. Our staff lives on site and is available to the students 24 hours a day for support and supervision.