Virginia Earth Systems Science Scholars
VESSS, 2018

The VESSS Experience

Distance Learning







Eight lesson modules have been compiled to expand students’ knowledge, prepare the Scholars for a week at NASA Langley Research Center if accepted to attend a Summer Academy, and familiarize them with NASA’s Earth System exploration. Learning will occur through weekly reading assignments, simulations, viewing video segments, and participating in online discussions. Learning will be demonstrated by completing case data analysis, quizzes, APA written reports, and a final capstone report. These module activities are submitted in sequential order every two weeks and posted through the VESSS online course website. All activities within the modules are reviewed and evaluated by a certified Virginia educator through the online system, with detailed feedback provided.

All VESSS modules are aligned to the following standards for students in grades 9-12.

● Next Generation Science Standards (Earth Science and Space Sciences) 

● National Educational Technology Standards (isteNETS)

International Technology Education Association (ITEA)

National Science Education Standards (NSES)

Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL’s) for Earth Science (Level II) and Sciences









College Credit

Students may receive up to five transferable dual-enrolled college credits, at no cost to them, from Virginia Peninsula Community College, depending upon their successful completion of the online course and Summer Academy program.

Online Course: Topics GOL 105 – Physical Geology- 4.0 transferable credits

Summer Academy: Topics GOL 199- Supervised Study in Geology- 1.0 credits

How to Receive College Credit

To receive up to 5-transferable credits for this course:

  • You must apply to Virginia Peninsula Community College. (Even if you have taken a college course or completed a dual enrollment course through another community college)
  • You need a 3.0 GPA and successful completion of Algebra I or higher (no transcripts are required, but the school counselor must verify on the VESSS application)
  • You must complete the online course registration for GOL 105, Physical Geology (4-transferable credits).
  • If you are selected to attend the Summer Academy, you must complete the online course registration for GOL 199, Supervised Studies in Geology to earn the additional 1-credit.

Once you have applied to VPCC and submitted your registration form (Provided on the VESSS Online Course Website), you must maintain a “C” or higher in the course to earn transferable credit.  Please note: When transferring college credits, grades do not transfer only the credits.

For more information on VPCC’s Dual Enrollment, click here.

For the Virginia Peninsula Community College handbook, click here.

If selected students participate in the distance learning coursework and complete the Summer Academy program, students will need to discuss high school credit with their school counselors to receive science elective credit towards graduation. The final decision regarding any credit rests with the student’s school system.


This Geology 105 course falls under the guidelines of Virginia as an Earth Science Level II course.

Summer Academy Activities


Cooperative Activities

Students are put into groups of four mission teams: the Biosphere, the Hydrosphere, the Atmosphere, and the Lithosphere. Each team will collaboratively design a feasible mission to study the Earth Systems and the effects on climate variability. At the end of the week, they present details of their mission to NASA scientists, engineers, and technologists during a Mission Design Review Panel and then to NASA administrators, state legislators, parents, and other VIPs at the Closing Ceremony.

Other Activities

Scholars will tour different facilities and labs that are typically not accessible to the public to view projects and technologies currently supporting space exploration programs. Scholars have the opportunity to observe a vast array of careers in the areas of math, science, engineering, and technology. They will receive seminar presentations from NASA scientists, engineers, technologists, special guest speakers, and Earth Systems Science industry representatives.


During the Summer Academy, NASA scientists, engineers, and other NASA personnel and Academia professionals will mentor each of the four teams. The NASA Mentors and Academia experts work directly with the students for several hours each day to offer guidance, advice, and knowledge to help the scholars successfully complete their mission designs. The scholars learn from the mentors how to work effectively on a project team when given a budget with specific parameters and tight benchmarks and deadlines. The mentors also share their backgrounds and working experiences with the scholars.

Follow-Up Commitment

As a VESSS Scholar, once the distance learning activities are finished, and the Summer Academy ended, the responsibility continues. Scholars are encouraged to

● Maintain an e-mail relationship with the VESSS Coordinator

● Recommend the program to others

● Help recruit new students

● Continue contact with VESSS, as required, and maintain information concerning their choice of college, choice of major and post-graduation plans

Contact Information

For questions about the curriculum, modules, and Summer Academy, please contact:
Kari Espada, STEM Education Program Specialist, VESSS Coordinator
office: (757) 766-5210
fax: (757) 766-5205