GEMS program runs at Natick
August 10, 2011
Several weeklong “Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science” programs for mostly middle school students ran during this summer at the U.S. Army Research Institute for Environmental Medicine.
Nearly 100 students participated in the program, the first of its kind offered at Natick Soldier Systems Center.
The GEMS program seeks to increase the students’ interest in math, medicine, science and technology by providing a unique learning opportunity. Instead of having a teacher instruct the students during the labs, near-peer mentors who are in high school or college teach the students, which allows for a less-intimidating environment.
While the program is new to Natick, GEMS began in 1994 with a program in Washington, D.C., and has evolved since to include programs at seven other military research labs besides Natick.
Students participated in many different types of hands-on labs, including forensics, bridge building, and microscopy. They also toured some of the labs at USARIEM and the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center and witnessed different modes of science and engineering in action.
“We want to show you how a combination of science and math helps us do things for Soldiers,” Col. Gaston Bathalon, USARIEM commander, said to the students. “It’s really important. I hope that what you have seen gets you excited for really listening in math and science class and you’ll come back in a science field in order to help solve real-world problems.”
This program is a unique experience for students of any age, who get the chance to work in a professional lab and meet scientists and engineers.
“Kids score really well on standardized tests in Massachusetts, but they’re not choosing careers in science and technology,” said Daniel Eggers, the program teacher. “(The GEMS program) is cool because, at the middle-school level, the students are still eager to learn and the nature of the program is fun science. The students were able to meet people who study, live and really enjoy science and what they do. It’s a great connection for the kids.”