Environmental Science Lab

It is not often that you find elementary students dissecting frogs, taking nature walks to identify plant life and parts, conducting on-going successional garden surveys in a nature habitat, investigating rocks and minerals, nurturing and raising live animals while studying their development, using microscopes to conduct research on aquatic ecosystems, and participating in “green” or recycling projects and after-school clubs. Here at Niemes, Environmental Science comes to life. Our students study matter, electricity, chemistry, and ecology at minimum. In addition, students make connections between decisions we make today and the ramifications they have on the environment tomorrow and into the future. “We’re Green” is our school motto, and is embedded into our school culture. Our focus on environmental science has directly resulted in raised student achievement in our Science CST scores. Niemes students scoring proficient or advanced has soared from 15% in 2006 to 57.8% in 2010, out-scoring the State average of 46%. Our program has made a difference in the way our students perceive the subject of science, and how they internalize knowledge and put it into practice. Our Science curriculum, Nature Center, and student groups have also prepared our youngsters into making real-life connections with content experienced in their week long 6th grade Outdoor Science Camp.


Our Innovative and Exemplary Program. Niemes staff has made a commitment to prepare our students for a future in which they must understand and take responsibility for the care of our environment. Each grade level has created an integrated environmental unit to deepen their understanding. Kindergarten teaches about the social and natural environment. First grade focuses on the weather and how if affects the Niemes Environment. Second grade explores how we grow and use natural resources (i.e. rocks and minerals). Third grade teaches: “Water, Is it Priceless?” Our fourth grade developed that idea and teaches about water and eco-systems. Fifth grade deals with the conservation of water. Sixth grade’s unit is “Sustaining our Natural Resources; Renewable vs. Non Renewable.”
Niemes Elementary was awarded the 
California School Board Association 
Golden Bell Award for an 
Outstanding Science Program!
In addition, our students visit the Science Lab with our science teacher and focus on all California Science Content Standards. Teacher-created PowerPoint slideshows projected by an LCD projector are used for every lesson taught. Presentations include animation, science videos clips, and realia to bring science to life.. During the presentation the students are able to show proof of their understanding through the use of Classroom Performance System (CPS) response pads, where the class can instantaneously and privately see the results of their answers to the topic generated questions.
PowerPoint lessons have been created to teach the California Science Standards and Environmental Principals. Lessons integrate hands-on experiences for the students, including lab experiments, demonstrations, and investigations. Students and teachers can access these lessons and resources on our Niemes Environmental Science Lab Website, located on the NiemesElementary.org homepage. General education teachers prepare their students for lessons and activities in the lab, and follow-up with their students after the lessons. Niemes students visit the science lab and nature center on average 3 days a month for 1 hour each visit. 

Our environmental mission reaches beyond the bells. Students volunteer and actively participate in student clubs with an environmental focus. Environmental Stewards represent our school and ensure our school-wide recycling program and “green” pledge is carried out. All classrooms/buildings have recycling bins, and ensure we save our resources. Recycling continues during lunch and after-school. Our PTA has a commitment to supporting our students in this endeavor and assist with these programs. Our Organic Gardening Club meets after-school to maintain grade level gardens. They learn about plant life, then plant, harvest, and share organic fruits, vegetables, and plants with the school and community. Our Green Kids Club also meets weekly after-school to do their part in learning how to keep us “green.” They start their meetings with an Environmental Pledge: “I will do my part to protect planet Earth. I will make an effort to educate myself, and others about the environment. I will lend a hand to the environment by reducing, reusing, and recycling.” The group then moves on to Eco-News, Nature Center activities, Niemes Naturalist Badge tasks, Eco-Games, and a Back-yard Bird Count. They also help maintain the nature center.

The hard work and dedication of our students is culminated at our annual Environmental Science Festival. This dynamic event takes place toward the end of the school year, and involves all students and staff. Each class prepares an environmental production to showcase at the event. Students work on sophisticated science projects to compete and display at the science fair in our auditorium. It truly is an exhibit of the higher-level learning that takes place at Niemes. Examples are: using solar panels to light a home, a model of an electrically efficient train to see if it reaches higher speeds, and testing how acid rain affects plant growth. Out in the quad area is a display of community organizations that have volunteered to host an environmental exhibit booth. Recently, we had Ford and Toyota bring new Hybrid automobiles to promote lessening air pollution, a solar panel exhibit where families can learn how to reduce energy consumption, the local Nature Center will teach about their resources, the local Water District came out to promote water conservation, Recycle! spoke about our plan to recycle electronics, the Tree People taught families how to get more trees in our neighborhood, and the Nutrition Network talked about taking charge of our life, being fit, and eating healthy. Students receive an environmental passport to be checked-off, as they visit all booths, and they can enter the raffle to win donated environmentally friendly prizes. Finally, students displayed recycle art projects made of recycled matter at the festival, as well as grade level environmental unit exhibits. This community event is not only a display of the learning and dedication Niemes students and staff have toward our planet, but helps to educate our families and community on becoming more environmentally aware.

Our innovative environmental program is exemplary, sustainable, applicable, has and will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of Niemes students today, tomorrow, and in our future.