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 where girls can think creatively, get messy, and roll up their sleeves as they work to bring about positive change.
Over the course of the summer, participants explore topics such as the arts, ecology, STEM, digital citizenship, and more through different “Labs.” Each Lab will focus on creating experiences that address these keywords:

List of 7 items.

  • Collaboration

    The value of solving problems together instead of alone
  • Communication

    Knowing the power of your voice and how to listen and exchange with others
  • Curiosity

    Experiences that support the interests and passions of participants
  • Changemaker

    Developing the necessary skills to be a force for positive change
  • Connection

    Reciprocal relationship-building with self, others, and the community
  • Confidence

    Cultivated from the creation of friendships and experiences
  • Community

    Learning together and contributing to the surrounding world


Discount Alert!

Take advantage of our discount rate—save $200 when you register for two Labs!

How It Works

Five 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 10 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 in the 10 days 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.

Teen girls benefit from the experience by taking on a leadership role at the Changemakers Lab. A leadership module at the beginning of each Lab specifically designed for participants ages 15–17 will teach older participants the skills they will need to mentor younger participants throughout the project. Participants will learn about the skills and characteristics needed to be a successful leader—including active listening, empathy, facilitation, flexibility, communication, and negotiation.

Real-world Community Partners

Each Lab will be created and implemented with the guidance and insight of a community partner. 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. 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. Registrants will be provided with additional details about plans for off-site excursions ahead of the start of each Lab.

Our 2021 Partners

2021 Labs

*SOLD OUT!* June 14–25

9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Cost: $900
Instructor: Linda Tonetti Dugan
In partnership with Pittsburgh Glass Center

*SOLD OUT!* June 28–July 9

9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Cost: $900
Instructor: Jackie Dame
In partnership with Grow Pittsburgh

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  • More Info About Art in Community

    Mosaic Project: What role does visual art play in shaping a changing world? How can murals and public art foster community? In this Lab, participants will explore these questions as they investigate how art impacts people, perspectives, and public spaces. In collaboration with the Pittsburgh Glass Center, participants will spend two weeks creating a glass mosaic mural that reflects the past, present, and a shared vision for a better future.
  • Art in Community Excursion

    Changemakers will visit the Pittsburgh Glass Center to meet local glass artists, to take a tour of the center and its studios, and to learn about the history and context of glass in Pittsburgh. Glass artist Sarah Cohen will lead a glass-blowing demo and a hands-on mosaic workshop. Following the visit, participants will venture into the community to view murals and mosaics in the neighborhood and discuss their impact on the community.

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  • More Info About Urban Ecology

    Community Garden Project: Ecology explores the relationships of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. This Lab will explore the science, structures, and complexities within the urban ecology of Pittsburgh through a community garden project. Over the course of two weeks, participants will get their hands dirty as they partner with Grow Pittsburgh to contribute to a community garden. They will learn about the impact ecological systems have on communities and discover how urban ecology presents an opportunity for innovation.
  • Urban Ecology Excursion

    Changemakers in Urban Ecology will take an excursion to Grow Pittsburgh’s Braddock Farm and meet the farmers and people who cultivate the land into food for the local community. Participants will explore the history and context of Braddock Farm while getting their hands into the earth as they learn more about the ecology and joy of growing food. Participants will then venture into the community and get to know more about Braddock while exploring Braddock Youth Project garden sites and their impact on the community.

*SOLD OUT!* July 12–23

9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Cost: $900
Instructor: Valerie Herrero
In partnership with Sarah Zeffiro, Zeffiro Art

*SOLD OUT!* July 26–August 6

9:00 a.m. –4:00 p.m.
Cost: $900
Instructors: Lydia Gibson, Gail Mosites, and Sara Sturdevant
In partnership with Pittsburgh Festival Opera

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  • More Info About Digital Citizenship

    Digital Communication Project: What skills are needed to be a responsible digital citizen and how can girls best use those skills to express their ideas in a globally connected world? In this Lab, participants will create a digital “passport” to explore the opportunities an interconnected world presents and an analog “passport” in which to collect their everyday experiences. The passports will be used to engage with topics beyond the boundaries of geographical space while discovering how both the digital and physical world provide avenues for interpreting information and communicating about important global issues. Together, participants will experiment with different design tools, apps, communication platforms, and creative processes as they practice analyzing and presenting real-world data, complex information, and lived experiences.
  • Digital Citizenship Excursion

    Changemakers will visit the Mattress Factory to see art installations and contemporary art and explore how artists utilize technology and traditional materials to express and communicate ideas. Participants will unpack how technology plays a role in how we interpret, create, and innovate in today’s world, and consider how artists create art that challenges, inspires, and encourages a closer look. Changemakers will then visit the site of Mattress Factory artist Meir Tati’s performance and reflect on how technology impacts our experiences.

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  • More Info About Performance by Design

    Theatrical Production: In this Lab, participants will create a theatrical production while exploring performing skills in a creative, collaborative, and design-centered setting. Participants will cultivate technical skills in acting, vocal music, movement, set design, and playwriting in an immersive experience designed to develop a sense of voice and confidence and enhance technical expertise. The collaborative setting allows participants to understand their strengths as communicators and changemakers as they work together to design, produce, and realize a 30-minute performance.
  • Performance by Design Excursion

    Performance by Design participants will take an excursion to La Roche College for the opportunity to be on set with Pittsburgh Festival Opera’s newest production. Participants will get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to create a performance while exploring the power of narrative and theatrical expression. Participants will hear from professionals about how theater impacts individuals and communities through the importance of using your own voice and working as a team.

*SOLD OUT!* August 9–20

9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Cost: $900
Instructor: Sam Rauhala
In partnership with CodeJoy

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  • More Info About Engineer the Future

    Prototype Project: As advancements in STEM fields propel us into the future, now is the time for girls to equip themselves with the dynamic and forward-thinking skill sets needed to engineer the future. Participants will collaborate to prototype a solution to a human-centered design challenge that investigates the use of automation and sensor technology. By learning the foundations of coding and robotics, girls in this Lab will explore how design thinking and programming can unlock the potential of working towards solutions to some of the most urgent problems of today.
  • Engineer the Future Excursion

    In this excursion, participants will have the opportunity to explore a Pittsburgh maker space and learn about how maker spaces are used for design, fabrication, and public good—often making big impacts for their surrounding communities. Participants will go on a tour, learn about the equipment, and explore how design thinking and engineering present opportunities to work towards solutions to some of the most pressing problems as well as the importance of STEAM and its impact in communities and its potential to create change.

Changemakers Lab 2022

Want to be the first to know what's in store for Changemakers Lab in Summer 2022? Fill out the form below and we'll be in touch as soon as registration opens!

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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  • View Answer

    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
    Opening question and check-in
    Overview of day
    Module activities


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

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

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  • View Answer

    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.

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

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  • View Answer

    • 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 after completing the Magnus health screening app. On subsequent days, participants may be dropped off starting at 8:15 a.m. in Ellis' front parking lot after completing the Magnus health screening app 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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  • View Answer

    Registration for Changemakers Lab is currently closed, but we can't wait for you to see what's in store for next summer. Fill out this form and we'll email you as soon as we open registration for our 2022 Labs!

Q: What medical and immunization forms are required?

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  • View Answer

    • 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. You will also need to provide a copy of your camper’s immunization form. Copies of the immunization form can be emailed to
    • 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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