How do we design urban systems that support life in every form?
Days: 14 • Group Size: 24 - 25 • Ages: 15 - 18
June 30 - July 13 Accepting Applications
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Brooklyn: Urban Environmental Systems

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Environmental Leadership Academy

Sustainable Summer’s Environmental Leadership Academy at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York enables the next generation of environmental leaders to engage in sustainability inquiry and action.

In this Brooklyn Summer Program…

  • You’ll tackle challenging academic concepts in a college-level sustainability course and develop the knowledge, skills and values you need to engage with the world as a global citizen
  • You’ll participate in site visits to sustainable businesses and renewable energy projects, and enjoy guest lectures from leading sustainability experts
  • You’ll live in a residence hall in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood with other environmentally-minded high school students
  • You’ll experience Brooklyn’s world class arts and culture in one of the cities most picturesque and vibrant neighborhoods

This two-week, intensive Brooklyn summer program provides students with an overview of urban sustainability in New York City with a focus on the vibrant borough of Brooklyn. Students will assess various urban systems, such as stormwater management, green infrastructure, solid waste management, and urban agriculture. Through hands-on, experiential learning, the program will expose students to the complex economic, ecological, and social systems that urban planners, policy-makers and other experts and decision-makers must consider when planning for a 21st Century, sustainable NYC.

Our Brooklyn summer program first examines some of the sustainability problems and opportunities, both large and small, that face New York. It then shifts focus to the methodological tools students need to propose a viable solution to one particular problem through a “design challenge.” The subject of the design challenge is stormwater management in Brooklyn. The control of street trash that will become floatables in the local waterways of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary is a significant environmental problem, which exceeds the capacity of NYC’s highly engineered “sewershed” and wastewater treatment system. This two-week summer program will invite the students to take a look at the systems in place to combat this problem. Some systems that will be explored will be green infrastructure (bioswales, green roofs, biomimicry, etc.), municipal solid waste (recycling, trash, and composting), and urban agriculture (rooftop farming). These and other topics, including functional ones such as design processes and computational modeling, will come to light through workshops and a guest speaker series featuring biotech engineers, green architects, city planners, transportation experts, policy analysts, and media personalities.

Summer in Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn has rapidly evolved from a geographic place name into an international brand, commonly appended to food stuffs and other artisanal items intended to invoke a sense of hip and cool. Less noteworthy amid the hype is Brooklyn’s role as an incubator of countless urban sustainability innovations. Brooklyn also happens to be our home, and we want to take students beyond the trendy and into an exploration of urban environmental systems with Brooklyn and NYC as our classroom.

Students are housed in a residence hall at the Pratt Institute, in the beautiful Clinton Hill neighborhood. Most morning feature a classroom-based workshop on campus, but afternoons will often find the group out and about exploring sustainability elsewhere in Brooklyn and NYC. Contact us to find out more.



in a college residence hall in the beautiful and hip Clinton Hill neighborhood


sustainable design and urban planning, with a focus on storm water management


Brooklyn's world renowned arts and culture

Program Staff *

Joanna Johnson

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Jenny O’Toole

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Jeff Sharpe Photo

Jeff Sharpe

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Cathy Yuhas

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Environmental Leadership Academy Program Updates

Brooklyn Testimonials

I believe that Sage had her most memorable summer yet. Both programs seemed to draw remarkably intelligent and nice kids. Sage seems to have been exposed to so many new perspectives and has developed a zest for wanting to make positive change. Suddenly she is seemingly well versed and has reasoned opinions about issues she […]

  Nancy,  parent from Rumsen, NJ

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Core Curriculum & Program Components

Much More Than A Pre-College Program

A world-class city? Check. Unique and interactive experiences? Absolutely. A smart, down-to-earth group of like-minded teens? Yup. Summer in Brooklyn is just the start. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders through dynamic place-based learning.
Urban Sustainability
How do we design urban systems that support life in every form? This essential question guides our experience studying sustainability in . Participants – through discussions, workshops, site visits, and fieldwork – will investigate important concepts in the field of sustainability, including corporate social responsibility; conservation finance; environmental economics; decarbonization strategies; and socially-inclusive economic development.
21st Century Leadership
A “global citizen” is someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building global values and practices. Frugality, integrity, humility, and cultural awareness guide our mission in creating the next generation of environmental leaders and responsible global citizens. Instead of a "leadership" curriculum, we infuse our program with activities that develop global citizenship in our students.
Developing Lifelong Skills
Challenge-based learning is a collaborative learning experience in which educators and students work together to learn about compelling issues, propose solutions to real problems, and take action. This unique approach asks students to reflect on their learning and the impact of their actions and publish their solutions to a worldwide audience. This component takes many forms on the program. A 3-day sea kayaking course that culminates in a paddling trip to Red Hook and Governors Island, where there are several interesting urban sustainability projects, is one example. Case studies and other collaborative team challenge also occur in more "traditional" learning environments. One important program module is a design thinking workshop culminating in a design challenge on the topic of stormwater management intended to foster not only a specific and actionable solution to a problem, but also the development of lifelong innovation skills that help create economic, social, or cultural value.

Program Tuition

Each program has a tiered tuition rate: standard (full tuition), tuition assistance (83% of tuition), or scholarship (as low as 15% of tuition).

How It Works

$ 2895
  • Participants at this tuition rate cover only their direct participation costs, including lodging, meals, activities, in-country staff and transportation, and support for local projects. Participation at this level is based on the honor system. It is available to all families - no documentation required. We simply ask families to honestly consider their financial resources and ability to pay the full tuition rate.
$ 520 - 2430
  • Additional scholarship funding is available for students that are unable to participate at either of the other rates. Scholarship participants receive up to an 85% reduction of the standard course fee. Due to the limited availability of scholarship funds, a separate application is required, including a parent financial statement and recent tax return.

What's Included


in either single, double, or triple rooms in a college residence hall at the Pratt Institute in the Clinton Hill neighborhood, just steps from dozens of cafes, restaurants, shops, parks, and much more.


Students will be provided with a full meal plan through campus dining services. Dietary preferences or restrictions are no problem.


Activities, from the adventurous to the cultural, are a regular part of the program. For instance, we'll do a 2-day sea kayaking progression in the East River and also hit some of Brooklyn's classic summer cultural events, like the Smorgasborg food market and the Celebrate Brooklyn concert series in Prospect Park.

Dynamic Learning Opportunities

Place-based. Interactive. Fun. We'll be visiting rooftop organic farms, learning about NYC's water supply and waste management systems from local experts, and discover other fascinating concepts using interactive approaches to learning.

Guest Speakers

A guest speaker series brings leading sustainability experts from NYC into the program.

4 Full-Time Professional Facilitators

Our fantastic staff lives in the residence hall with the group.

Pre-Program Materials and Support

Students and parents receive comprehensive and prompt pre-program support.

Not Included

Tuition does not include transportation to/from campus, or personal expenses such as laundry, snacks, souvenirs, and other incidentals.

Program Details


A Typical Day

Start the day with a healthy and delicious breakfast from the Dining Hall.
Sustainability Course
Let's talk sustainability. These sessions aim to develop "eco-literacy" in our students, such as the understanding of the interconnectedness of human and natural systems; and the linkages found in nature and those connecting economic systems, environment, and society.
Global Citizenship Workshops
The subject of personal growth is approached through a series of interactive workshops intended to equip students with the ability to take actions that contribute to building global values and practices and make our planet more equal, fair and sustainable. This segment of the program focuses on teamwork and communication skills, critical thinking, and action planning. Workshops include topics such as failure and its importance in personal development; action planning; global citizenry; agency; introspection and self-discovery; positive risk-taking; public speaking and engagement; active listening; and more.
Lunch Break
Recharge your batteries with lunch and some time to relax before the afternoon session starts.
Afternoon Activity
Depending on the day, we could be at a rooftop organic farm, learning and working; on a site visit to one of the sustainability initiatives nearby; or enjoying a casual afternoon in the city.
Free Time or Project Research
Work on your group project. Or just hang out.
The dinner options are plentiful, and always delicious.
Workshop or guest speaker
Depending on the day, we could have a guest speaker or a workshop on leadership, sustainability, or another relevant subject.
Free Time
Hang out with friends until curfew.

Course Calendar

This is a broad outline of the program broken out by morning, afternoon, and evening events. Each day there is also typically a few hours in the afternoon or evening for unstructured social time.

Week 1

  • Day 1: Arrival/Orientation
  • Day 2: Orientation/Coursework/Guest Speaker
  • Day 3: Coursework/Site Visit to SIMS Recycling Center/Workshop
  • Day 4: Coursework/Volunteer Project/Guest Speaker
  • Day 5: Coursework/Site Visit to Brooklyn Grange/Project Research
  • Day 6: Visit to Red Hook/Resiliency & Micro-grid Workshops
  • Day 7: Smorgasburg and Prospect Park

Week 2

  • Day 8: Brooklyn Bridge Park Kayaking Class & Sustainability Tour
  • Day 9: Kayaking Trip to Williamsburg and the Newtown Creek EdShed
  • Day 10: Coursework/Site Visit to Wastewater Treatment Facility
  • Day 11: Coursework/Group Project/Guest Speaker
  • Day 12: Site Visit to Rockaways/Group Project Work
  • Day 13: Project Presentations
  • Day 14: Departure

Sustainable Summer reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the program itinerary. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in weather; to take advantage of a new activity or unscheduled opportunity (such as a festival or event); to accommodate the health needs of an individual participant; or due to changes in activities or schedules of our partners and providers.

The itinerary shown here attempts to capture a general feel for the day-to-day activities for this program, but is not intended to reflect the actual program itinerary.

Guest Speakers

Speakers for our 2018 program include*:

Pete Dominick is the host of Stand Up! with Pete Dominick on SiriusXM 104, which regularly features conversations with some of the biggest names in politics, journalism, public policy and entertainment. The Huffington Post called Stand Up! "Truly the best political talk show on the air today."

Dan Sherrell is the Campaign Coordinator for NYRenews and was previously an Organizing Representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. Although only in his mid-twenties, Sherrell’s experience with climate action is already remarkable. The son of an oceanographer, Sherrell says his awareness of climate change started with the stories his father would tell after returning from research expeditions in the melting Antarctic. While attending Brown University, Sherrell, along with other students, launched the effort to divest the school’s endowment from coal, one of the first fossil fuel divestment campaigns in history. Sherrell and the Beyond Coal campaign were instrumental in New York's decision to retire all of its coal plants by 2020, and supplant at least 50 percent of its electric power with renewable energy sources by the year 2030.

A representative from NYC's Office of Resiliency and Recovery

The Chief of Natural Resources Division, Bureau of Water Supply, NYCDEP

The Executive Director of a prominent climate activism groups

A leading urban permaculturist and food security expert

Several guest lecturers from the Pratt Insitute that specialize in urban sustainability and/or environmental systems

*Subject to change


Our 2019 program will again be run by Jeff Sharpe and Cathy Yuhas. Jeff is the Founder and Executive Director of Sustainable Learning, the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that runs Sustainable Summer programs. Cathy is an environmental educator and a graduate of Pratt's Environmental Systems Management program. Supporting Jeff and Cathy are a team of experienced educators. All of our staff live in the dormitory with students and provide support, mentorship, and supervision. There are also several guest instructors and speakers that are active in sustainability initiatives locally that work with our group.
We cap enrollment for this program at 32 students.
It's not necessary to have any previous coursework beyond a freshman year earth science or biology course and a strong interest in the subject matter. Nearly all of our participants are already active in sustainability or environmental clubs within their school or community, but if you're just starting to develop an interest in the subject, there is probably a place for you on the program. All prospective students will need to apply and be accepted into the program, which requires completing our online application. We have received feedback from some past students and parents asking us to state more clearly that program admissions are competitive, and while we're not interested in putting admission statistics on our website, we'll take this opportunity to state in no uncertain terms that we deny admission to a large percentage of our applicant pool. Please visit our online application for additional information regarding our expectations.
No. We partner with the Pratt Institute to provide housing and meals. We also work with members of the Pratt faculty on programming, but the program is run by Sustainable Summer, not by Pratt.
Students arriving by plane are encouraged to plan their travel to JFK International Airport, where they will be greeted by our staff and escorted to campus using the AirTrain and LIRR at a cost of $15.25 each way. We can also support arrivals by train to Penn Station or Atlantic Terminal for no additional fee. If you need to arrive at Newark or LaGuardia airport, or some other arrival point, please contact us for details and fees. We have very detailed information about travel to/from the program (whether by plane, car, etc) that we provide to families upon enrollment, but feel free to contact us with travel logistics questions prior to enrollment.
No. Our position on college credit for pre-college enrichment programs is that, in most cases, it drives up the cost of participation without adding much value to the experience. It's unlikely that admissions officers will weight the fact that a course was taken "for credit" any greater than one that is not in admissions decisions. Furthermore, competitive universities do not typically allow pre-college credits to transfer. Typically to be eligible for credit transfer, a course must be offered by accredited four year degree granting institutions as part of an undergraduate degree program, be at least three weeks long and meet for a minimum of 30 contact hours, and/or course enrollment must be by a majority of current college students. The vast majority of pre-college courses, even those offered by colleges themselves, don't meet these requirements. This is probably why large pre-college programs run by universities like Columbia don't confer credit. They know it's not going to transfer.
Maybe, but that depends significantly on a number of factors. See this article on college admissions for more info.
Yes. This program is designed to connect with a few different global learning programs or our environmental leadership academy at Dartmouth College.
Students will be provided with a full meal plan. Breakfast and lunch are a la carte off a declining balance program. Dinner is family-style. Weekends feature brunch and dinner only. Dietary preferences or restrictions are no problem.

Students will live in either single, double, or triple rooms in a Pratt Institute residence hall in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. This is a beautiful "brownstone" neighborhood. Most New Yorkers consider Clinton Hill to be "post-gentrification" and "affluent" and "safe." These are obviously subjective terms, but we want to provide some helpful information to prospective parents and students that may not be familiar with Brooklyn. Call us with any questions or concerns.