Breaking Summer Boredom by Discovering Science

Students feel the wind in Natick Soldier Systems Center's unique Doriot Climatic Chambers

Students feel the wind in Natick Soldier Systems Center's unique Doriot Climatic Chambers this summer. The Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science program is an extracurricular summer science education program that enables middle-school-aged students to experience science in a real laboratory setting. (Photo courtesy USARIEM)

The Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science program is an Army Educational Outreach Program offering youth the opportunity to conduct hands-on experiments and to gain exposure to military science efforts. GEMS aims to support national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education objectives and to build the Nation's strength by investing in its future Department of Defense scientists, engineers, clinicians or technicians. One of the unique cornerstones of the GEMS program is the idea of a Near-Peer Mentor or college student majoring in a STEM or education field. The Near-Peer Mentors work in teams to teach STEM curriculum to students in grades four through 12.

"We have the luxury of designing the activities to actual research being conducted here," said Stephanie Truss, U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research GEMS program coordinator.

"We present what they know and have learned in school and show them how they can use it in the future as researchers in military labs like this one," said GEMS Resource Teacher Leigh Anne McIver.

Resource Teachers, local certified teachers from the community, provide guidance and support to the Near-Peer Mentor during the course of the program, which ranges in length from three weeks to eight weeks. More than 75 Resource Teachers and Near-Peer Mentors collaborated to assist in making GEMS an outstanding experience for the more than 1,600 student interns who participated during the summer.

GEMS Near-Peer Mentor Ashlyn Rathburn commented that "it is a great experience for all of us; we learn from each other."

Each week, the students participating in the program change while the Near-Peer Mentors and Resource Teachers typically stay the same.

Seven U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command locations host a summer GEMS program. Each location offers its unique spin of classes that fit under the STEM umbrella. These classes are designed to connect with the individual mission of each USAMRMC lab. Computer programming and robotics classes, explorations in biochemistry, biomedical, neuroscience, dissection, environmental studies and crime scene investigation are just some of the areas where student interns can explore potential careers and hands on experiments.

"Most of the students do not have these types of hands-on activities, or if they do, the activities are not as extensive in their schools, so it's good for them," said Truss.

Collin Newman, a student intern, said "you get a big experience in science, plus, it is really fun."

The students end their week-long session with a graduation ceremony, where they receive a certificate of completion for the program. The following locations held a GEMS program: the USAMRMC at Fort Detrick, Maryland; the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland; the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense in Edgewood, Maryland; the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory at Fort Rucker, Alabama; the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Research in Natick, Massachusetts in partnership with the Natick Soldier Systems Center; the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston, Texas; and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

Are you interested in attending a GEMS program in your area? Please check out the AEOP website http://www.usaeop.comexternal link for any activities or opportunities offered in your area.

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Last Modified Date: 02-Oct-2014