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Field Lab Transforms Into a School Lab

Woodbury University and Pomona College students are studying the former rocket test complex.

[From Woodbury University]

School is in session in at an unexpected location as a hazardous waste site and former rocket test complex transforms into a classroom for Los Angeles-area schools and students.

The boundaries of this new classroom are limited only by imagination as students and professors adapt the 2,850-acre former Santa Susana Field Lab west of Chatsworth to learning needs.

Academics are helping bridge the property from its past to its future as parkland and open space. Among the colleges doing research there are Woodbury University and Pomona College while other organizations increasingly utilize the site for educational purposes.

Certification for this new purpose occurred recently when the Wildlife Habitat Council awarded site owner The Boeing Co. its prestigious Corporate Lands for Learning certificate for providing "exemplary conservation education experiences for the community."

The property is rich in natural and technological possibilities for students. For example, architect and design students from Woodbury University in Burbank are surveying the site to design buildings that will serve hikers and recreational users and complement the sandstone bluffs, Native American sites and oak-dappled canyons that lace the property.

A few towering rocket test stands remain, but 90 percent of the buildings have been removed as Boeing converts the property to public parkland. Meanwhile, students from Pomona College study earth underground, where a matrix of faults and fissures, busted bedrock and dirt pose challenges to the ongoing hazardous and radiological cleanup, scheduled for completion by 2017.

The site makes an ideal lab for science and engineering students cutting their teeth on hazardous waste remediation and environmental protection. Other educational and research participants engaged at the property include the Pollinator Partnership and the Audubon Society.

The property is located in hilly region between Chatsworth and Simi Valley and bounded by open spaces and sparse housing.

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