WASHINGTON, June 21, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA and Vanderbilt University's Dyer Observatory in Brentwood, Tenn., are hosting a Summer of Innovation event for rising fifth and sixth graders in the Nashville area on Thursday afternoon. NASA Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin will address students and join them in hands-on, Mars-related activities. Melvin also will give a presentation to a larger audience during a special astronomy-themed concert performance in the evening.
Summer of Innovation events are part of the agency's efforts to inspire and engage middle school students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This is the second year Dyer Observatory has partnered with NASA on the project.
Students will participate in a variety of STEM education activities throughout the week-long camp at Dyer. They also will take a field trip to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, both in Huntsville, Ala., to see flight hardware and learn about America's human spaceflight program throughout its history. Dyer will host a similar Summer of Innovation camp and field trip for rising seventh and eighth graders the week of June 25.
"The Dyer camps offer wonderful opportunities for students to hone their STEM skills in a fun and interactive way," Melvin said. "We rely on partners like Dyer to find innovative ways to encourage STEM studies. The musical astronomy component of this week's activity does just that. We are so pleased to have Beth Nielsen Chapman and The Long Players help us in this effort."
Chapman and the The Long Players are Nashville-based musicians who will perform songs from The Mighty Sky, a unique compilation of astronomy-themed songs that have associated lesson plans for middle school teachers and informal education providers. The songs for The Mighty Sky were penned by Chapman and Rocky Alvey, director of the Dyer Observatory.
During the concert, Melvin will give a presentation that highlights the agency's commitment to STEM education through NASA content. He also will share his personal experience as a two-time space shuttle astronaut. Melvin logged more than 565 hours in space during the STS-122 mission in 2008 and STS-129 in 2009.
Summer of Innovation events are taking place this summer at NASA centers and partner organizations across the country. To learn more and see highlights of the various events, visit: