|The Living Lab dream began in 1998 as a Fourth Grade Earth Day Project involving all fourth grade students and parent volunteers at the Day School. This Stream Team, under the direction of Carol Shestok, took part in the Massachusetts “Adopt-A-Stream” Program. The team conducted research to ascertain the
environmental health of the Reed Brook habitat and reported the results to the Town Conservation Commission. (The Brook was safe but did contain some road salt. In addition, students observed small trout.) Through successfully completing the program requirements, the Norman E. Day School fourth graders were granted official adoption of the Reed Brook in 1998. The Reed Brook became the charge of the Day School to forever maintain for the survival of local marine and plant life. The next step was to take this initiative to a higher level, a Living Lab where all students in Westford could act like scientists in the field. This became a reality in 2004.
On January 9, 2004, the Living Lab was officially dedicated. Becoming the wonderful Living Laboratory that it is today has occured over time. Through the dedication of the people in the town of Westford who gave of their time, expertise, materials, and funds as partners with the school system in education, Carol's Livinig Lab dream for students to act like practicing scientists in the field became a reality. This was, and continues to be, a true community and business partnership with education. It is the largest community partnership with which Carol Shestok has been involved, and she extends her gratitude to each and every partner.
The development of the Living Lab was done in three stages. First, Reed Brook had to be made accessible without destroying the surrounding environment. To this end a catwalk that allows safe access to the Brook was built at the Norman E. Day School by Nashoba Technical High School Students. Additionally an outdoor classroom including granite benches was installed by Derek Lyman, an Eagle Scout.
Second, the Living Lab required sophisticated microscopes and probes, lab tables, specimen containers, and research equipment designed for the small hands of grade 1 students and the more mature hands of fifth graders. Two companies, Microwave Device Technology Corporation, located in Westford, and M/A-COM, Inc. have donated traditional microscopes. Electronic digital microscopes were provided through a grant from the WestNet Partnership. Funds and support have come from donations and grants received from the Westford Education Foundation, WestNet Partnership, Westford Elementary
Schools PTO, Westford Conservation Trust, Westford Friends and Newcomers, Westford Cultural Council, Massachusetts Creative Schools Cultural Council, Massachusetts Mosquito Control, Westford Woman's Club, and anonymous donations. In addition, the Westford Water and Highway Departments have provided consultants. Further, the Stantec Engineering Firm has designed and developed the Living Lab Rain Garden. Today the Living Lab is funded through the Westford Public School System with continued support from our educational partners.
Our third phase is a look to the future. We are looking foward to the construction of a stand-alone building to house two classrooms with scientific equipment so students can conduct their investigations right at the Brook. This is needed in order to accommodate the need for classroom space at the Day School. Plans for the building have been drafted. The hope is that the building will be constructed by Nashoba Valley Technical High School students at some point in the future. Funding sources would include donations, fundraisers and the Westford Public Schools.