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Welcome to NASA's Summer of Innovation 2011
Two boys stand next to a girl who is inside a space capsule simulator

Summer of Innovation provides STEM activities for middle school students and teachers throughout the summer. Image Credit: NASA
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Last Tuesday, June 21, was the 2011 summer solstice -- the beginning of astronomical summer in the northern hemisphere. That day also was designated "National Summer Learning Day." Through its Summer of Innovation initiative, NASA demonstrates its commitment to summer learning and the positive effects it can have on students.

SoI began in 2010 and is entering year two of a three-year pilot program. Targeted at middle school students, the program uses a variety of approaches and experiences to engage the students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. Studies show that by keeping students involved during the annual summer break, they avoid what is known as "summer slide" and are better prepared to learn when school resumes in the fall. NASA's missions and programs provide compelling and dynamic content to teach the tenets of STEM and show the opportunities that pursuing such a career can offer.

NASA's ten installations across the country, as well as several partner organizations, are participating in this year's SoI campaign. Listed below are some of the activities taking place this summer to engage students.

A large group of students

NASA's Ames Research Center has teamed up with the Dr. Frank S. Greene Scholars Program to host 25 middle school students as part of its Summer of Innovation program. Image Credit: NASA
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Ames Research Center -- Mountain View, Calif.

As part of Summer of Innovation, NASA's Ames Research Center is hosting the Summer Science Institute of the Dr. Frank S. Greene Scholars Program. The 25 participating middle school students will spend the week hearing from NASA researchers, seeing research facilities at Ames, working on individual projects, and developing and delivering presentations. The Greene Scholars Program is a K-12 STEM initiative for youth of African ancestry who have been selected by educators or community leaders for showing aptitude in mathematics and science. Founded in 2001, the Greene Scholars Program fosters a community of college-bound students focused on developing their academic gifts.

Glenn Research Center -- Cleveland, Ohio

NASA's Glenn Research Center's strategic collaborations for the implementation of NASA SoI projects this year include professional development opportunities developed by NASA education specialists for teachers and informal educators. Over 90 certified teachers and 40 informal educators have been trained to engage more than 2200 underserved and underrepresented middle school students in hands-on, inquiry-based activities this summer. The 5th Quarter Summer Program operated by Cincinnati Public Schools (Cincinnati, Ohio) and the Believe to Become (B2B) Initiative operated by Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation (Grand Rapids, Mich.) are returning collaborations from 2010. New collaborations were developed with Perkins Schools and Sandusky City Schools (Sandusky, Ohio) to operate Middle School Summer Academies and with the Girls in Engineering, Mathematics and Engineering and Guys in Science and Engineering summer programs operated by Minneapolis Public Schools (Minneapolis, Minn.).

A young man runs with a small kite

Through projects like the Summer of Innovation, students stay engaged throughout the summer to avoid the "summer slide." Image Credit: NASA
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Goddard Space Flight Center -- Greenbelt, Md.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is committed to collaborations that further the goals of increased student achievement and interest in STEM-related careers and to the building of relationships between summer activities for underrepresented students and impact during the school year. Goddard has SoI three-year partnerships with 18 Title-I middle schools representing five neighboring school systems within the Goddard service region to strengthen instructional delivery of STEM content, resources and experiences to underperforming, underserved and underrepresented middle school students. Nine STEM professional development workshops are being offered during the summer to provide high-quality educator training and STEM content for 180 middle school teachers to further support and increase teacher and student STEM knowledge and achievement during the academic year. The summer experience will culminate with Goddard’s annual Middle School Week in the fall, which welcomes hundreds of middle school students and their teachers to the center. The partnership facilitates bridges between in-school and out-of-school learning opportunities and communities. Customized plans were created for each participating school to integrate Goddard resources and personnel into delivery of STEM lessons, professional development and training. The partnership with local schools will assist in tracking the correlation of student engagement in these activities to their academic achievement.

Teachers work on a rocket activity

Educators take part in Summer of Innovation activities, too. Image Credit: NASA
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory -- Pasadena, Calif.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is targeting informal education programs associated with after-school and summer learning in the greater Los Angeles area in support of SoI. Major collaborators include Los Angeles County Office of Education; Orange County Office of Education; San Diego County Office of Education; San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools; San Bernardino City Schools; Long Beach Unified School District; Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department; City of Ontario Parks and Recreation Department; and the University of California, Riverside. Many of these collaborators work with a variety of local agencies including the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Scouts, Think Together, and other organizations to provide after-school and summer programming for underserved and underrepresented youth. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory provides training for informal educators in STEM activities to enrich the academic focus of these programs.

Johnson Space Center -- Houston, Texas

As part of its 2011 SoI effort, NASA's Johnson Space Center will share NASA’s unique STEM content with 1,800 middle school students. To excite young minds about the possibilities provided by studying a STEM field, SoI will collaborate with the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program and the Teaching From Space project to enhance student summer learning experiences. SoI will culminate with Johnson’s Voyage Back to School event on Aug. 18. It is a collaborative effort with Space Center Houston, which will celebrate the summer’s educational successes. The students will participate in summer learning activities through partnerships with Clear Creek Independent School District, Galena Park ISD, Galveston ISD, Houston ISD, Krueger School of Applied Technologies, and Gadsen ISD in New Mexico.

Kennedy Space Center -- Cape Canaveral, Fla.

NASA's Kennedy Space Center is collaborating with three Florida public school districts -- Orange, Miami-Dade and DeKalb -- along with two organizations -- Girls Get IT! and the Math Environmental Sciences Academy (MESA, U.S. Virgin Islands) -- to engage over 1500 students in exciting, hands-on NASA STEM curriculum this summer. Students will investigate topics such as engineering, physical science, Earth and space science, and life science. The Kennedy SoI camps occurring on June 21 gave students the opportunity to interact with Kennedy Center Director and former astronaut Bob Cabana via video chat!

Teachers take part in a lunar lander drop activity

Summer of Innovation workshops provide teachers with new activities to bring STEM learning into the classroom. Image Credit: NASA
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Langley Research Center -- Hampton, Va.

NASA's Langley Research Center is collaborating with 16 new partners to help deliver SoI STEM content (in life science, physical science, Earth and space science, and engineering), through camps and academies to more than 2,000 underserved and underrepresented students in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Two of Langley’s academies began on National Summer Learning Day: STEM Reading Academy in Virginia Beach and AGAPE Leadership Academy in Hampton. Langley is very excited about two of the new collaborations -- faith-based organizations and the Eastern Shore Migratory summer camps, which both are in the state of Virginia.

Marshall Space Flight Center -- Huntsville, Ala.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is collaborating with organizations across their service region to offer quality STEM summer learning experiences to underserved and underrepresented middle school students. Partner organizations collaborating on SoI are Alabama 4-H; Girls Incorporated; the Wiregrass Math and Science Consortium; the Idea Place; Louisiana GEAR Up; Sci-Quest Hands-on Science Center; CORE and Lorain County Joint Vocational School; Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory; and the Bernard Harris Foundation. Through these collaborations, over 2100 middle school students will participate in a variety of hands-on NASA education activities. From building and launching water-bottle rockets to talking with NASA scientists via Skype, students will be engaged in stimulating STEM activities in an effort to increase retention of and improve interest in these areas.

On June 21, Marshall held SoI camps in Butler County, Ala. (4-H); Dothan, Ala. (Wiregrass Consortium and Girls Inc.); Lake Charles, La. (LA GEAR Up); Brentwood, Tenn. (Dyer Observatory); and Huntsville, Ala. (Sci-Quest). In addition, a NASA education specialist traveled to Dyer Observatory to conduct various hands-on activities with the camp participants.

Check back at http://www.nasa.gov/soi for more Summer of Innovation activities in July and August.