Make It a STEM Summer with Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA

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Contributed by Holly Ryer and Emma Marcucci

Summer can be a time to relax, travel, and tackle a few DIY projects. While youth are enjoying their break from school and are hard-at-play, summer program providers are “hard-at-work,” creating engaging and authentic learning experiences.

Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA can help! Girls STEAM Ahead Logo Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA is an initiative within the NASA’s Universe of Learning program. By offering a range of freely available resources, it empowers informal venues like public libraries, science centers, and community-based organizations to engage girls and their families in current NASA science and STEM. Youth can engage, explore, and identify with STEM content via the wonders of the universe.

Though focused on engaging girls, events and activities are open to all family members, regardless of gender or age. They can also be the perfect way to implement this summer’s “Universe of Stories” reading theme.

In this blog post, we highlight a sample of Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA resources that can support summer programming and engage space enthusiasts!

DIY Projects… Why just look at space images when you can create them?

Incorporate active learning into your summer program with NASA’s Astrophoto Challenges (MicroObservatory Challenge and Data Challenge). Learners have a choice of capturing a real-time telescope image of the Whirlpool Galaxy and processing it with MicroObservatory's JS9-4L tool, or they can select any of NASA’s Whirlpool Galaxy images and process it. By entering either challenge (or both) by July 31st, learners can potentially have their work selected as a standout entry for feedback from NASA scientists!

If you’re looking for something less computer-based and more hands-on, try A Universe of Making and Doing. This site includes several hands-on activities, such as Paper Circuits: Light up Exploded Stars that feature printable templates and low-cost materials. Paper circuits help learners of all ages explore the basics of electricity while allowing them to create their own takeaway.

Summer Vacation… Travel to a whole new world – no spaceship required!

Learners can take a trip outside of our solar system and explore select exoplanets with the Exoplanet Travel Bureau. This site includes a series of downloadable posters and virtual reality experiences. Learners can go further with Eyes on Exoplanets, a fully rendered 3D universe that allows learners to zoom in for a close look at more than 1,000 exotic planets orbiting distant stars. Also, introducing or reinforcing concepts about exoplanets is simply a click away with “The Habitable Zone” video series from Universe Unplugged.

Beat the ‘summer slump’… by reinforcing key concepts.

With the Girls STEAM Ahead Light and Color Activity Guide, you can introduce learners to the visible-light spectrum and color mixing. In the activity, learners explore visible light by observing an LED light strip with diffraction-grating glasses to observe how the light can be broken up into its component colors. Through a constructivist approach, learners discover that the primary colors of visible light are red, green, and blue (RGB).

You can use one or several resources to custom-create your own learning experiences that meet both program and learner needs. The best way to access all of our resources by topic or type is through our new, interactive resources guides. Currently, two are available – the Exoplanet Resource Guide and the Stars Resource Guide.

Happy summer!

Interested in hosting an event or learning more about the program? Please contact Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA at

Learn more through the following links:


This material is based upon work supported by NASA under cooperative agreement award number NNX16AC65A. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Holly Ryder

Holly Ryer

Holly Ryer is a Senior Education Specialist at the Space Telescope Science Institute. She works on the Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA project and supports program evaluation activities. She also supports public outreach activities for the Hubble Space Telescope mission.

Dr. Emma Marcucci

Dr. Emma Marcucci

Dr. Emma Marcucci joined the Space Telescope Science Institute in 2017 as an Education and Outreach Scientist. She is currently the Branch Manager for the Institute’s Science Communication and Engagement team. She works on the NASA’s Universe of Learning program, as well as outreach activities to share the science of the Hubble and Webb Space Telescopes with the public.

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