Thank you for your interest in Changemakers Lab!
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We hope you'll check back in January to learn about our 2024 programming.

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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 interdisciplinary real-world projects 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. 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.

Community Partners

Each Lab will be enriched by 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.

2023 Labs


June 12–23

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


June 26–July 7*

9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Cost: $725
Instructor: Jackie Dame

*Please note: Changemakers Lab will not be held on Monday, July 3 or Tuesday, July 4.

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  • About Art in Community

    What role does visual art play in shaping a changing world? How do artists use their voices for positive change within themselves and their community? Participants will explore these questions as they investigate how art impacts people, perspectives, and the world around them while working on artwork of their own design.

    In this studio-focused Lab, participants will spend two weeks exploring, creating, and presenting art that will culminate in a camper-curated exhibition. Off-site explorations will include behind-the-scenes looks at local artist studios and arts organizations. After examining how practicing artists make and exhibit their work, participants will craft reflective artwork using a multitude of materials. From ceramics to mixed media, changemakers will fully explore how personal expression and meaning-making can foster and forge community. While no previous arts experience is required, a love for materials, experimentation, and process is strongly encouraged.

    Please note that there may be an evening exhibition on the last day of this Lab.
  • Art in Community Excursion

    Changemakers will visit the Brew House Arts Association to get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at artist studios and speak with local artists in a Q&A session. Students will also view and create art in response to Rip, Repair, Repeat, an exhibition that speaks to the process of mending and making whole, while also acknowledging the cyclical nature of the creative process—that taking apart is as much a part of moving forward as putting together.

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  • 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 Land Trust at the site of the former Meyer Farm to participate in a service project and geocaching exercise.


July 10–21

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


July 24–August 4

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

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  • About Engineer the Future

    Tomorrow's changemakers will be required to think outside the box and engage in creative problem solving. Join our Engineer the Future Lab to find innovative solutions to puzzling challenges through teamwork, a curiosity for investigating possibilities, and the engineering design process.

    Participants in this Lab will use coding and Hummingbird robotics kits to prototype a unique solution to a human-centered design challenge. Participants will also investigate how design thinking and connecting with the community paves the way for creating a lasting impact.
  • Engineer the Future Excursion

    Our budding engineers will enjoy a private coding and creativity session with Pittsburgh's own CodeJoy, where they will learn how to make Hummingbird robotics kits come to life. Changemakers will then take a tour of the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse to harvest recycled materials that they will use to build and design original robots of their own.

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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.