Collage of images of activities featured in this article.

We're launching into summer by highlighting 12 of our favorite summertime projects for students, including a Mars student challenge you can do again and again.

Just because the school year is coming to a close doesn't mean student learning has to go on vacation. In fact, with our collections of nearly 60 guided out-of-school time activities and 50 more student projects that are perfect for summertime, you can find a number of ideas for keeping kids engaged while they learn about STEAM and explore NASA missions and science in the process.

Here are 12 of our favorite summer-worthy activities, plus more ways to engage students in STEAM this summer.

This last one, while not a self-guided project for students, is a great option for summer camps and other out-of-school time groups looking to fill their summer programming with STEAM related to the Perseverance Mars rover mission. Explore seven weeks worth of lessons and activities that can be customized to your group's needs and get kids planning and designing their own mission to Mars!

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Explore the full collections of guided activities and projects at the links below:

TAGS: K-12 Education, Out-of-School Time, Afterschool, Informal Education, Summer, Resources, Projects, Students, STEAM

  • Kim Orr

Scenes from Jackie Prosser's fourth-grade classroom including a door poster commemorating Dorothy Vaughan, a poster with the words Dare Mighty Things glued to it, a yellow lab surrounded by NASA posters, and Miss Prosser with two other teachers all wearin

This fourth-grade teacher is finding creative ways to get her students back into the flow of classroom learning with the help of STEAM education resources from JPL.

Jackie Prosser is a fourth-grade teacher in Fairfield, California, finishing her second year as a classroom teacher. She is a recent graduate of the University of California, Riverside, where she simultaneously received her teaching credential and her master's in education. This was where I was fortunate enough to meet Miss Prosser, through a collaboration between the Education Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UCR designed to help new teachers incorporate STEM into their future classrooms. She and her cohort immediately struck me as passionate future teachers already exploring unique ways to bring space science into their teaching.

But it's been a challenging transition for Miss Prosser and teachers like her who started their careers amid a pandemic. She began her student-teaching in person only to find that she would have to switch to teaching remotely just four months into the job. Now, she's back in the classroom but facing new challenges getting students up to speed academically while reacquainting them with the social aspects of in-person learning.

I caught up with her to find out how she's managing the transition and developing creative ways to support the individual needs of her students and, at the same time, incorporating science and art into her curriculum with the help of STEAM resources from the JPL Education Office.

What made you want to become an elementary school teacher?

Originally, I became a teacher because I love to see that moment of light when a concept finally clicks in a kid’s mind. I am still a teacher (even after the craziest two years ever) because every kid deserves someone to fight for them, and I know I can be that person for at least 32 kids a year.

I love to teach young kids especially for two reasons. The first is their honesty; no one will tell you exactly like it is like a nine-year-old will. The second is that I love the excitement kids have for learning at this age.

It has been a bumpy couple years, especially this past school year when it was unclear if we would be remote again or back in the classroom. How has it been coming back from remote learning?

Coming back from remote learning has been an incredible challenge, but we’ve come a long way since the beginning of the year. Students really struggled being back in a highly structured environment. It was very hard to balance meeting the individual needs of each student and getting them used to the structure and expectations of the classroom.

My fourth graders were online for the last part of second grade and a vast majority of third grade. This is when students really start to solve conflicts and regulate their emotions with less support from adults. I have seen a lot more problems with emotion regulation and conflict among my students this year than in years past.

There is a lot of pressure on teachers right now to make up for all the learning loss and for students being behind on grade-level standards. But I don’t think enough people talk about how much joy and social interaction they also lost during remote learning. Teachers are also feeling the pressure of that. I want to help my students be the very best versions of themselves and being happy and comfortable with themselves is a huge part of that.

Description in caption.

A student looks at a page from the NASA Solar System Exploration website. Image courtesy: Jackie Prosser | + Expand image

How do you structure your class to get students back in the flow of a school setting?

I use a lot of manipulatives in my math lessons and try to make their learning as hands-on as possible. I also teach math in small groups to be able to better meet the individual needs of my students. I have one group with me learning the lesson, one group doing their independent practice of the skill, and one group on their computers. Then, the students switch until each group has done each activity.

You’re a big fan of science and came to several JPL Education workshops while you were still in school yourself. Are there JPL Education resources that you have found particularly impactful for your students?

I have always loved teaching science. It is so often left behind or pushed aside. I think a lot of time that happens because teachers feel like they do not have enough background knowledge to teach high-quality science lessons or they think that the lessons will add to the already enormous workload teachers have. My district does not have an adopted or prescribed curriculum for teachers to follow, so we have a lot of freedom for when and how to make the time for STEAM.

The education resources [from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory] have made it so easy for me to teach and get kids excited about science, and my kids absolutely love them. Our favorites always seem to be Make a Paper Mars Helicopter and Art and the Cosmic Connection.

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A student holds a paper Mars helicopter. Image courtesy: Jackie Prosser | + Expand image

I also am part of my district’s science pilot program. It has been so cool to be able to decide what curriculum to pilot and watch my students test it out and give feedback on their learning. Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to teach science for two elementary schools’ summer programs. My partner teacher and I got to create the curriculum for them, and we pulled a ton of lessons from the JPL Education website. It was by far the most fun I have ever had at a job.

Despite being a new teacher, you’ve already seen so much. How have you navigated the changing landscape?

I have an amazing network of teachers supporting me at every turn. My grade-level team and my friends from my credential program are some of the most amazing people and educators I have ever met. There is no way I would be able to get through the more difficult aspects of teaching without them.

I am also coaching the boys soccer team, directing the school’s "Lion King Jr." play, contributing to the science pilot program, and serving on the social committee for teachers and staff. I love using these different roles to make connections with not just my students, but also students from all grades.

Looking for ways to bring NASA STEM into your classroom or already have a great idea? The Education Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory serves educators in the greater Los Angeles area. Contact us at

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TAGS: Teachers, School, Remote School, Classroom, Instruction, K-12, Fourth Grade, STEAM, Science, Math, Art, UC Riverside, resources, lessons

  • Brandon Rodriguez

Students in LA's Best

February conjures up thoughts of Valentine's Day, President's Day and, depending on where you are, a snow day or two. In Los Angeles, February also brings an annual partnership between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and LA's BEST, a Los Angeles-based after-school enrichment program.

The main objective is for JPL engineers, scientists, business managers, outreach staff and educators to visit LA's BEST after-school sites to share exciting topics in science, engineering and space exploration with students. One group from JPL's Office of Communications and Education led a "Space Web Editor for a Day" activity. Fourth and fifth graders selected their favorite space images and wrote captions explaining why they liked the images. They also prepped images and text for a web page. Their final product can be seen below.


I named it colorful Venus because its color is like a rainbow and I like all the colors of the rainbow.
- Isabel

Mars as seen by the MER rover

I picked Mars because it is cool but I think it is a little bit dangerous. I also like Mars because the dirt is the color brown and brown is my favorite color.
- Adriana

Solar flare

I like this image because it looks interesting and I like the shiny things coming out of it. This image is red, and a little bit yellow. I love the color yellow.
- Anali

I choose this picture because it looks very interesting. The sun is yellow because the sun is hot and bright.
- Jonathan

I like it because it looks like a ball of fire in space. Fire comes out and spreads into space.
- Johnny

Saturn's moon Enceladus seen beyond Saturn's rings

You might see it is similar to an eclipse, which more or less happens on Earth. What I think, it is an Eclipse. Since Earth's eclipse is similar, Enceladus is my best guess.
- Eduardo


What I like about Neptune is that the color it has is blue. Blue is my favorite color. The shape of it reminds me of a round ball.
- Natalia

3-D image of the sun

I like this picture because it looks like a big pink diamond and it heats us up.
- Alexandria

Saturnian moon

I like this image because it looks like a sponge.
- Jaime

The moon gets heat from the sun and melts into the moon's surface. The moon may have low density.
- Virginia

Whirlpool galaxy

I like this picture because it looks like floating water in space. I also like this picture because it's cool.
- Ammerica

It looks like a lot of stars connecting. The whirlpool looks so bright. To me, it looks like a tornado of ice and water.
- Carlos

I picked the Whirlpool galaxy because it is like it is spinning around. It is blue, my favorite color. It is famous. I also like it because it is called Messier 51, named after Charles Messier.
- Jacqueline

I like this image because I could learn about this galaxy and where they found it.
- Juan

The Whirlpool galaxy is a famous spiral galaxy. The Whirlpool galaxy is also called Messier 51, named after Charles Messier. The Whirlpool's very bright spiral arms show areas of compressed dust and gas.
- Maritza

TAGS: K-12, STEAM, Space Images

  • NASA/JPL Edu