ADAMS -- With laboratory forceps and specimen jars at the ready Thursday morning, ninth-grader Kahlil Lanphear and his fellow science class partners carefully picked up macroinvertebrates -- caddisflies, stoneflies and other aquatic insects -- they collected and preserved from the Hoosic River and placed them under dissecting microscopes.
Comments like "Oh my God" and "This is, like, so cool," erupted from a couple of teenage girls sitting at a nearby table, viewing close-up details of spiked bug legs and grooved exoskeletons.
Asked how a project like this was conducted in previous years at the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School, Lanphear looked up from the lens and said, "I don't think we could do this before."
Ten years after the school opened, BART this week opened its first modern and professionally equipped science space.
Science experiments, particularly those involving chemicals, were previously conducted outside of the school building. The school has acquired various types of lab equipment and materials over the years, but much of it was kept in storage because the school didn't have an adequate and secured lab space with fume hood systems.
"We had desks, but they were nothing like this, and this room didn't even exist," said ninth-grader Emma Wheat. "It had computers in it."
Dubbed the Bo & Katherine Peabody Science Laboratory, the first-floor space was formerly the school's computer lab.
The approximately $130,000 renovation was funded by a grant and by the proceeds of a gala event held in honor of distinguished BART supporter Bo Peabody. Burke Construction Co. of Adams worked on the lab between August and September.
Science teacher Miles Wheat, who has been with the school for five years, said previously science rooms only had one sink each and teachers couldn't conduct many chemical reactions due to lack of necessary ventilation.
The new space has two laboratory islands with a total of eight sink bays, three fume hoods with proper ventilation systems and an emergency shower and eye wash station, walls painted with whiteboard paint, an instructor's station and more accessible work and storage space to accommodate up to 24 students at a time.
"The primary benefit is that we get to use the equipment that we have a lot more," said Miles Wheat. "I'm grateful to have [the lab] and think it has improved our ability to teach science."
He and his colleagues Jennifer LaForest, Stephanie Watroba and Amy Wiles will all use the lab this year, teaching both middle and high school classes.
"I think having [the lab] makes class more hands-on, which will make it more interesting and help kids stay more focused," Lanphear said.