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Registration for our 2022 season is now closed.
We hope you'll check back soon to learn about our 2023 programs.

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The world is rapidly changing. Together, girls can shape what that world looks like.

Changemakers Lab is a summer institute that brings together girls entering grades 5–10 to collaborate on an interdisciplinary real-world project in an exploratory space. Over the course of the summer, girls will roll up their sleeves, get messy, and think creatively as they work to bring about positive change and explore topics such as the arts, ecology, STEM, and more.

How It Works

Four different two-week Labs are offered throughout the summer. Each Lab focuses on a specific project and runs Monday through Friday. Please note that by registering for one Lab, participants are committing to all days of that Lab. Participants can register for any number of Labs. Each Lab consists of three core modules that will guide participants through the collaborative project:

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  • Changemaking

    Changemaking is a process that emerges from a need to solve an urgent problem and requires collaboration, communication, and connection.

    This module will address four essential questions: What and who is a changemaker? When does change need to happen and why? What kind of change is possible? How do we create change together?
  • Projects

    Each Lab offers an opportunity to explore one hands-on, real-world avenue for shaping the world we live in. The project is completed in collaboration with a local community partner and provides a tangible challenge that can be addressed by the end of the program. 

    Each project will challenge participants to utilize the steps of the design-thinking process as they work together to come up with an innovative real-world solution: research and exploration; reflection and processing; planning and design; implementation; closing reflection and sharing.
  • Exploration

    The Lab begins with an exploration of the interconnection between ourselves, others, and the community. In this module, participants will start by looking inward to identify their unique passions, skills, and values. Exploration will then expand outward into the group and then the community.

    Through thoughtful observation, applied empathy, critical thinking, and engaged learning, participants will build friendships as they define their shared purpose of changemaking.


Why Mixed Ages: Mentorship Matters

Role models and mentors help support girls as they shift their perceptions about leadership and tap into their potential as leaders. Changemakers Lab intentionally brings together teams of mixed-age girls to collaborate within an environment representative of the diversity of experiences, skills, abilities, and perspectives naturally found in the real world. This mixed age group is meant to provide younger girls with an opportunity to learn alongside older teen girls who model what female leadership can look like. When girls have models of success, they thrive.

Real-world Community Partners

Each Lab will be enriched and implemented with the guidance and insight of community partners. Local community organizations will offer their leadership in their area of expertise by teaching a technical skill, introducing project-specific materials and concepts, and/or leading relevant discussions.

An off-site excursion into the community will be part of each Lab. Participants will engage in activities guided by our community partners and the Changemakers Lab lead instructor. Efforts will be made to provide transportation for students from Ellis to the excursion sites and back; however, families may be required to drop off at 9:00 a.m. and pick up at 3:00 p.m. at the excursion site. Registrants will be provided with additional details about plans for off-site excursions ahead of the start of each Lab.

Our Past Partners

2022 Labs

*SOLD OUT* June 13–24

9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Cost: $900
Instructor: Peter Barbor

*SOLD OUT* June 27–July 8*

9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Cost: $900
Instructor: Jackie Dame

*Please note: Changemakers Lab will not be held on Monday, July 4.

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  • More Info About Art in Community

    What role does visual art play in shaping a changing world? How can the creation of sculptures and art connect us to our community? Participants will explore these questions as they investigate how art impacts people, perspectives, and public spaces. In this sculpture-focused Lab, participants will spend two weeks learning about the processing and environmental impact of clay and ceramic sculpture from the very beginning when the raw materials are harvested from the ground to their own final pieces of reflective artwork.
  • Art in Community Excursion

    Changemakers will visit the Standard Ceramic Supply Company in Carnegie to meet with their technical professionals and learn all about the industrial side of creating ceramic supplies, including the different varieties of clay, casting slips, and glazes. Following the visit, participants will get their hands dirty and learn about harvesting clay of their own and how to process it into workable clay for their own ceramic creations.

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  • More Info About Urban Agriculture

    Protecting and championing the needs of our environment is just as important in urban settings as it is in rural communities. This Lab will explore the natural urban landscape of Pittsburgh through hands-on projects designed to teach girls not only how to care for urban greenspaces but also advocate for environmental change. Over the course of two weeks, participants will get their hands dirty as they partner with Pittsburgh organizations shaping our local landscape. They will learn about the impact urban agricultural systems have on communities and discover opportunities for innovation and positive impact.
  • Urban Agriculture Excursion

    Changemakers in Urban Agriculture will meet the farmers and volunteers of Garfield Community Farm who use agricultural practices intended to increase the health and biodiversity of the local ecosystem. Participants will also learn about the business side of urban agriculture through Garfield Community Farm's CSA vegetable subscription program and even help at the farm in the harvesting of produce. This Lab will also visit the Allegheny GoatScape herd to see firsthand how goats can provide a sustainable solution to combatting invasive species in public locations such as the Great Allegheny Passage.

*SOLD OUT* July 11–22

9:00 a.m. –4:00 p.m.*
Cost: $900
Instructors: Diana Craycroft, Heidi Murr, and Sara Sturdevant

*Please note: There may be an evening performance on the last day of this Changemakers Lab.

*SOLD OUT* July 25–August 5

9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Cost: $900
Instructor: Sam Rauhala

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  • More Info About Performance By Design

    What impact do theater productions have on the community? How can creativity be used for good? In this Lab, participants will create a theatrical production while exploring these questions and developing performance skills in a creative, collaborative, and design-centered environment. All participants will be encouraged to have a hand in all facets of the production and will cultivate technical skills in acting, vocal music, movement, set design, and playwriting. The collaborative setting of this Lab allows participants to understand their strengths as communicators and changemakers as they work together to design, produce, and realize a 30-minute performance. The final performance will take place in the evening on the final day of camp. Prior experience with theater performances or a strong interest in diving deeply into this topic through a two-week immersive experience is highly encouraged.
  • Performance By Design Excursion

    Performance By Design participants will take an excursion to the Pittsburgh Playhouse at Point Park University. This new state-of-the-art performance venue opened in 2018 and will provide participants with a behind-the-scenes look at a variety of performance spaces, scene labs, a costume shop, and a soundstage as they learn about what it takes to mount a full theatrical production.

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  • More Info About Engineer the Future

    The ability to find creative solutions to some of the most urgent problems of today begins with close observation, teamwork, and a passion for investigating possibilities. Participants in this Lab will use coding and robotics to prototype a solution to a human-centered design challenge. Participants will investigate how design thinking and connecting with the community paves the way for creating an impact.
  • Engineer the Future Excursion

    In this lab, participants will meet with the archivists and scientists of Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Project. They will learn about the history and progression of robotics research as it happened right here in Pittsburgh through the newly created Robot Archive and see how the evolution of self-driving cars and robotic artifacts have shaped the current state of the robotics field. Participants will explore how design thinking and engineering to address community needs have changed over the decades in order to better understand the future of this fast-changing field. This Changemaker Lab will also feature several virtual workshops with CodeJoy as participants learn how to code and design their own robots with Hummingbird Robotics kits.

Meet Our 2022 Instructors

    • Art in Community

    • Urban Agriculture

    • Performance By Design

    • Engineer the Future

Changemakers Lab 2023

Want to be the first to know what's in store for Changemakers Lab in Summer 2023? Fill out the form below and we'll be in touch as soon as registration opens in January 2023!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who can be a part of this program?

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    Changemakers Lab welcomes girls entering grades 5 through 10.

Q: Where do the Labs take place? How will excursions work?

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    All Labs will take place on The Ellis School's campus, located in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Directions and a campus map can be found here.

    Some excursions will be in close proximity to Ellis’ campus.
    **Any excursion not within walking distance of the Ellis campus requires families to drop off at 9:00 a.m. and pick up at 3:00 p.m. at the community site. Transportation will not be provided.**

    All excursions will take place within the local Pittsburgh community. Registrants will be provided with additional details about plans for off-site excursions ahead of the start of each Lab.

Q: What is a typical day like at the Changemakers Lab?

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    A typical day at the Changemakers Lab includes dynamic activities, conversations, and games designed to encourage relationship-building and foster changemaking skills in a fun, engaging environment. Each day will balance time to explore changemaking fundamentals and time to implement the community project. A typical daily schedule looks like:

    9:00 a.m. - Arrival
    Overview of day
    Morning snack
    Module activities


    Module activities and project
    Clean up
    End-of-day closing and reflection
    3:00 p.m.* - Departure 

    *Please note that Performance By Design departure takes place at 4:00 p.m.

Q: What are the hours and duration of each Lab?

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    Each Changemakers Lab program takes place Monday through Friday* from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with the exception of Performance by Design which takes place from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

    Each Lab is 10 days* over the course of two weeks. Participants can register for any number of Labs.

    *Please note that Changemakers Lab will not be held on Monday, July 4.

Q: What should participants bring to the program each day?

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    • A nut-free snack
    • A nut-free lunch—Ellis is a nut-free campus.
      • Please notify us of any participant allergies.
      • Please note that refrigeration and microwaves are not available for packed lunches. 
    • A labeled water bottle
      • Hydration stations are available to refill water bottles, but water fountains will be closed.
    • A towel to sit on outdoors during lunchtime
    • A hat and sunscreen as needed for time spent outdoors

Q: How do I drop off and pick up?

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    On the first day of the program, all participants need to be checked in by a parent or guardian at the Upper School entrance. On subsequent days, participants may be dropped off starting at 8:15 a.m. in Ellis' front parking lot and may check themselves into their program.

    Changemakers Lab participants will wait to be picked up outside the entrance to the Ellis Upper School at 3:00 p.m. (with the exception of Performance By Design, where participants should be picked up at 4:00 p.m.). The front gate will be locked at all times to ensure the safety of everyone. No adults are allowed inside school buildings due to COVID-19 health protocols.

Q: How do I register for a Changemakers Lab program?

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    To register for any of the Changemakers Labs, fill out this form to get started. You will receive an email with the link you will need to complete your registration process.

    Registration is only considered complete when full payment has been received.

Q: What medical and immunization forms are required?

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    • If the Changemakers Lab participant is a current Ellis student, we have their medical and immunization information on file. If any changes have arisen this year, please be sure to update their Magnus profile before the program.
    • If the Changemakers Lab participant is not a current Ellis student, you will need to complete the Summer Camp Health Form, which can be filled out online within the Ellis Summer Camp registration form.
    • Please note that we are prohibited by state law from allowing participants to remain on campus without medical and immunization information.

Q: Absences or transportation changes—what do I do?

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We encourage all parents/guardians to review our camp policies prior to registration.
If you have any questions, please reach out to us at