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Review: Browns Environmental Leadership Lab

For two weeks over the summer, I was fortunate to attend Browns Environmental
Leadership Lab in Rhode Island. This program, which takes place in an isolated estate
called the Haffenreffer Estate, was the epitome of experiential learning: living in a tent
without technology allowed me to connect with nature and strengthened my desire to
learn environmental science. With the use of guest speakers, I was able to gain a different
perspective on otherwise simple topics like water management, and the instructors and
leadership fellows were outstanding mentors. This lab, however, also taught students to
be socially responsible leaders in society and pushed us to use skills such as listening or
communicating when advocating for specific environmental policies as we move into the
future. Going into this program, I had very high expectations, which were exceptionally
met.
Browns Environmental Leadership Lab set a strong foundation about my
knowledge about specific aspects of this field such as environmental psychology, or bio
mimicry. Before this program, environmental science was a cloudy subject that I only
learned about for one week in AP Biology. However, BELL was able to start the program
with a basic introduction to environmental science that allowed me to catch up with those
who were more informed about the subject (perhaps after taking AP Environmental
Science). Because the instructors assigned article readings each night, after the two weeks
I felt that I am now able to choose a specific path in the broad spectrum of environmental
science. These articles include topics ranging from abstract articles from the 1960s that
focused on topics like cognitive dissonance or the problem of bottom-up decision-making
in the context of environmental policy, to articles about micro plastics that I was
otherwise uninformed about. Additionally, the lectures, given by the instructors or guest
speakers, were extremely useful in personalizing the issue of global warming and climate
change to our everyday lives, and were able to provide specific solutions and
consequences that students can implement around our homes, or in our schools. For
instance, on the third day of camp, the lecturers provided a list of examples of hope that
people in our status quo have implemented to alleviate the effects of global warming,
such as windmills, silicon based batteries, or a smog vacuum. The instructors, pushing the
students to take their own action, also required us to make our own action plans that we
execute in our communities. These plans included implementing recycling bins around
campus, starting an environmental club, or getting more environmental leaders to speak
at school assemblies that would motivate students to use the environmental resources in
their campuses, which was my action plan.
Although I was able to set a strong foundation on my knowledge about the
environment, Browns Environmental Leadership Lab also taught me ways to become a
more socially responsible leader. In my opinion, this aspect of the program was one of the
most enjoyable aspects because the activities were both silly and extremely useful. For
instance, on the second day, the leadership fellows taught us four different types of
leaders and made us walk to the type that we can most relate. After that, we were
supposed to create a skit that best represented how we cooperate on a group basis. From
this activity, I learned that having a diverse array of leadership types, instead of just
utilizing one, will yield the best results and will enhance group productivity. Combining a
leadership institute with an environmental science is intelligent: it is only in becoming a
leader that ones voice will be heard. Using these skills, I know that once the school year
starts, I will advocate for more environmentally friendly resources around my campus.
Understanding the depth of environmental science, becoming a socially
responsible leader, and creating friends from around the globe that I still contact and can
collaborate with all made these two weeks the most memorable two weeks of my life. I
am so thankful in coming to this program that is over 3000 miles away from my home. If
anyone reading this article has an interest in environmental science in the future, I highly
recommend attending this program.