As the world grapples with a host of environmental challenges, the relevance of environmental studies has only increased. The field is broad - connecting across fields like biology, economics, chemistry, and sociology. Over the past few years, a series of environmental science programs have emerged that give the opportunity for students to explore the field. From internships with leading organizations to hands-on research experiences, these programs provide you with a chance to explore your interests and gain valuable skills that will benefit you in college and beyond.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the best environmental studies summer programs available for high school students, highlighting the unique features and benefits of each.
If you have a deep interest in sustainable energy, this program provides you an opportunity to gain knowledge about the latest developments and global challenges in the field of climate and energy. You will be learning from experienced faculty members who belong to institutes like the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), the Becker Friedman Institute, and the Climate Impact Lab. Along with participating in engaging, collaborative projects, you will also attend thought-provoking classes that encourage problem-solving, critical thinking and exploring environmental concerns.
Location: Residential, University of Chicago
Application deadline: Applications for the 2023 sessions are already closed. Based on this year’s deadlines, the applications close in early March each year.
Program dates: July 23 – July 28, 2023
Eligibility: Applicants should be at least 15 years of age and be current high school sophomores or juniors enrolled in a high school in the United States.
2. UC Santa Barbara's Research Mentorship Program, Ecology/Earth Science Track
The Research Mentorship Program is a solid option if you want to do college-level research. This summer program is highly competitive, and it provides you with the chance to select a research project in any discipline of your choice. Throughout the program, you will gain hands-on experience in conducting research, honing your professional writing skills, and presenting your findings at formal conferences.
If you’re interested in environmental studies, the program also offers Ecology and Earth Science options and assigns a mentor to assist you throughout your research journey. Additionally, participants in the Research Mentorship Program have the opportunity to earn university credits that will be added to their permanent record at UCSB.
If you’re interested in this program, we’ve also written an in-depth piece detailing everything you need to know about RMP 2023!
Location: Residential, UC Santa Barbara
Commuter option: Around $5,000
Residential Option: Around $12,000
Application deadline: March 15, 2023
Program dates: June 20 – August 4, 2023
Eligibility: Students all over the world who are in 10th and 11th Grade with a minimum GPA of 3.8
The TREES Program is a summer research and mentorship program that offers high school students the opportunity to work individually with mentors of their choice on self-designed projects. In addition to project work, you get to participate in seminars, field trips, social and cultural activities, and workshops focused on careers and college admissions. The program begins with a two-week period of hands-on instruction in basic laboratory skills, followed by an independent research project.
By working on your individual project, you will develop the skills needed to approach environmental problems from a scientific perspective. You have to conduct extensive library research, learn scientific methodology, and undertake fieldwork where possible. At the end of the program, you must submit a research report and showcase your project at a presentation. Following the conclusion of the program, students receive year-round mentoring, and many choose to enter their work in science fairs.
Application deadline: Applications for the 2023 sessions are already closed. Based on this year’s deadlines, the applications close in early February each year.
Program dates: July 6, 2023 – August 4, 2023
Eligibility: Students in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades who live in the Philadelphia area and have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Candidates from underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply.
LINC (run by the Park Conservancy, a registered non-profit) offers a six-week internship program in environmental science for high school students residing in the Bay Area. This program aims to unite students from different regions of the Bay Area to participate in outdoor activities that promote community building, service learning, and exploration of local parklands.
Throughout the six-week program, you will engage in various outdoor activities such as trail work, habitat restoration, community cleanups, workshops on resume building, mock interviews, and networking with park partners. Additionally, you get to participate in an overnight camping trip to a national park, wildlife observation, ropes courses, kayaking, and field games. Participants receive up to $2,300 upon completion of the program.
Location: Marin County (LINC: North cohort) or San Francisco (LINC: South cohort), CA
Application deadline: March 12, 2023
Program dates: June 13, 2023 – July 28, 2023 (including a break from July 4 – July 8)
Eligibility: You must be enrolled in a high school from these counties to be eligible for LINC.
The SGC session of the Yale Young Global Scholars program is a summer program aimed at highly motivated students seeking to enhance their critical thinking skills and gain a theoretical understanding of environmental issues affecting global systems.
The program employs an interdisciplinary approach, enabling you to develop solutions for problems with global implications, focusing on the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through this session, you will learn to apply your technical knowledge to real-world scenarios, acquiring critical analysis, problem-solving, and creative thinking skills.
By examining contemporary social, economic, and environmental issues, you will be able to brainstorm innovative and sustainable solutions. The program emphasizes the translation of technical knowledge into practical implications, giving students the necessary tools to develop and implement solutions to complex global challenges.
Some of their sample lectures and seminars are on the climate crisis, industrial ecology, sustainability and privilege, climate refugees, and environmental activism.
Location: Residential, Yale University
Cost: $6,500 program fee and $75 application fee
Application deadline: Applications for the 2023 sessions are already closed. Based on this year’s deadlines, the applications are open from November to early January each year.
Session I: June 18 – June 30, 2023
Session II: July 2 – July 14, 2023
Session III: July 16 – July 28, 2023
Eligibility: Students have to be
At least 16 years old by the first day of Session III
A current sophomore or junior (or any international equivalent)
A first-time participant
YESS (Youth Engaged in Sustainable Systems) is a paid internship program for high school students enrolled in the Highline and Riverview School Districts. You will be assigned to a restoration crew and focus on replacing invasive plant species with native Pacific Northwest plants. In addition, you will be exposed to green career paths related to natural resources, conservation, ecological restoration, and land management.
Throughout the program, you get to work with professional restoration experts from the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, U.S. Forest Service, WA Department of Natural Resources, King County, and Burien PaRCS. Students are also eligible for a stipend and can earn one graduate, credit upon completion of the program. Along with participating in engaging, collaborative projects, you will also attend thought-provoking classes that encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and exploring environmental concerns.
Application deadline: Due in late May or early June
Riverview: June 27, 2023 – August 5, 2023
Highline: June 27, 2023 – July 29, 2023
Eligibility: High school students from the Highline School District or Riverview School District.
HSRA’s 5-week program is meant to engage ambitious high school students in an immersive and interdisciplinary research experience that provides hands-on opportunities. You will participate in research projects related to the fields of environmental science, ecology, biochemistry, biology, genome engineering, data analytics, and more in active laboratories at the College of Natural Sciences (CNS).
During this program, you will learn innovative research techniques and gain valuable insights by working closely with UT students and faculty in CNS undergraduate research groups.
Location: University of Texas, Austin
Cost: Fee- $3,500 per student (+ $5 Application Fee). Need-based scholarships are available.
Application deadline: March 26, 2023
Program dates: June 12, 2023 – July 19, 2023
Eligibility: All applicants must be at least 15 years old by June 1, 2023 (open to high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors).
8. American Fisheries Society’s Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program
The American Fisheries Society (AFS) sponsors the Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program, an 8-week paid summer internship for high school students. The program offers Hutton Scholars the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in fisheries and aquatic science by matching them with a mentor in their local area. The program has an extensive network of mentors across all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico and offers unique internships within a 45-minute commute of each student's home.
The program offers diverse work environments such as fieldwork, boating, laboratory research, or office work. Scholars engage in resource conservation and management projects and get to learn about the significance of healthy aquatic systems while exploring different career paths in conservation and resource management.
Location: National, with an all-expenses paid trip to the Hutton Scholars Summit (University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff)
Application deadline: Applications for the 2023 sessions are already closed. Based on this year’s deadlines, the applications are open from December to early February each year.
Program dates: Any 8 weeks between June 2023, - August 2023 (depending on each individual scholar’s schedule)
Eligibility: High school sophomores, juniors, and seniors
The Oakland Zoo offers a 7-week conservation summer internship program called ‘Intro to Climate Solutions’ for teenagers who aspire to work in ecology, conservation, environmental science, or related fields. The program features virtual meetings and field trips where you will explore conservation-related topics.
The internship runs from Tuesday to Thursday every week and focuses on the weekly themes that correspond to the 9 sectors identified by Project Drawdown as having the greatest potential impact on halting or reversing the effects of climate change. During the second half of the program, you will work on a capstone project that Oakland Zoo staff will guide and supervise. At the end of the internship, you will present a brief presentation and submit a final report on your capstone project.
Location: Oakland, CA
Application deadline: May 1, 2023
Program dates: June 13, 2023 – July 27, 2023
Eligibility: All high school students from demographics that are underrepresented in STEM fields.
Brown Environmental Leadership Labs (BELL) is a summer camp for high school students that offers a distinctive approach to exploring environmental topics. Through hands-on outdoor learning, community service, and art projects, BELL provides you with new ways to engage with environmental science. You will work with live animals or plants and participate in community service projects, such as planting trees or cleaning up local parks, to get to know the community better.
The BELL program is conducted in three different locations:
Brown Environmental Leadership Labs: Alaska (off campus)
Brown Environmental Leadership Labs: Eastern Sierras (off campus)
Brown Environmental Leadership Lab: Rhode Island (on campus)
Learn more about BELL here!
Location: Alaska, Eastern Sierras, or Rhode Island
Eastern Sierras: $5,190
Rhode Island: $5,444
Application deadline: May 12, 2023
Alaska: July 19, 2023 – August 1, 2023
Eastern Sierras: July 29, 2023 – August 7, 2023
Rhode Island: June 25, 2023 – July 7, 2023, or July 9, 2023 – July 21, 2023
Eligibility: Students completing grades 9-12 by June 2023 may register
If you are passionate about environmental studies, then you should consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program which is a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. In the program, you work 1-1 with a researcher to develop your own research project. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
You can also check out the Lumiere Research inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.
Image source: stock photograph