Summer of Innovation Heats Up Summer Learning
Representatives from Los Angeles County parks receive introductory training in Mars-related activities.Representatives from Los Angeles County parks receive introductory training in Mars-related activities. Image credit: NASA/JPL As part of NASA's Summer of Innovation, the Education Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has been conducting educator workshops and providing resources for a range of summer learning providers. Summer of Innovation is a NASA pilot program designed to use summer as a time to improve science and math learning. It is geared to middle school students, particularly those who are typically underrepresented in math and science career fields. JPL has a goal of providing science and math activities to 1,000 middle school students over the summer.

Educators from a wide range of organizations are participating in the JPL pilot. Recently, representatives from six Los Angeles County parks visited JPL and received introductory training for a NASA program called Imagine Mars. The Mars program works with students to plan a futuristic colony on Mars. The activity encourages students to use many different skills, such as drawing, planning and building. The L.A. parks group also received ideas and resources for doing rocketry activities at the parks this summer.

JPL educators also partnered with the Alpha Center at the University of California, Riverside, to provide NASA content for the Climbing Higher with the Academy for Math and Science (CHAMPS) program and Girls Excelling in Math and Science Success (GEMS) learning program. Students were introduced to the Marsbound board activity. In this game, student teams create science goals, stay within budget, launch their mission, and deal with challenges and successes that may arise on their mission to Mars.

Summer learning isn't only a local endeavor. In Casper, Wyoming, Solar System Ambassador Jim Nations conducted demonstrations for 100 students to highlight extreme cold and how materials can be designed to operate in such harsh conditions. He also built a model of a comet.

NASA's Education Office will evaluate the 2010 pilot as it plans for another Summer of Innovation in 2011. Educators interested in participating should visit NASA's Summer of Learning website at .