Capeless Elementary School has a new classroom.
On Friday, the school formally celebrated its new science lab, completely outfitted through the help of community donations.
"The last couple of years we've been trying to get the school more focused on science because our MCAS scores were very low," said Principal Candy Jezewski.
At the elementary school level, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System science, technology and engineering exam is given to fifth-graders.
In 2010, 56 percent of Capeless fifth-graders passed the exam by demonstrating a proficient or advanced-level score, according to state assessment data. That rate dipped dramatically in 2011, with only 37 percent of fifth-graders scoring at a proficient level.
In 2012, 77 percent of Capeless fifth-graders were scoring below the level of proficiency on the state science MCAS exam.
This fall, the release of the 2013 test results showed improvement; 41 percent of students scored at a level of proficient or better on the science exam.
Jezewski said the test score improvements seemed to correlate with the donation of some science lab equipment to the school, along with adjustments in the school's approach to curriculum and instruction.
"The areas where we saw improvement were areas we were doing more work in based on [the equipment and resources] people had given us," the Capeless principal said. "Now the whole goal is to create a love for science throughout the school."
On Friday, the school's community business partner, Nuclea Biotechnologies, joined representatives from Sabic Innovative Plastics to show students the kinds of hands-on science experiments they can do with the school's resources.
Sabic's Sandra Lanning, a former Capeless parent, did a demonstration in the school's outdoor classroom space. That space was recently cleaned up and organized by a group of Berkshire Young Professionals volunteers and Ryan Landscaping & Lawn Care, both based in Pittsfield.
Nuclea staff showed students how to view various tissue samples under five new state-of-the-art microscopes donated to the school by Sabic.
Jezewski said other donors who volunteered time and materials include MountainOne financial center, the Capeless PTA and Walmart.
The principal said Friday's program served as a way not only to thank all the volunteers and support, but also as a way to launch the fifth-grade science fair program. Students will begin to develop their projects this fall, and will present them at an annual fair set for the spring.
Students across all grades with use the newly designated science classroom, with science specialist Michele Matthews. Math classes will also be held there.
"The grand opening of the science lab was to show students how to do science experiments and to learn how to use the new things that we have," Jezewski said. "It was amazing to see students and adults engaging like that."