FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- This summer, the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science program and the Fort Rucker Child and Youth Services School Age Center partnered to provide SAC campers an incredible science, technology, engineering, and mathematics experience.

USAARL's involvement in STEM education, a result of U.S. Executive Order 12821 -- Improving Mathematics and Science Education in Support of the National Education Goals, supports the advancement of STEM-related initiatives and disciplines to achieve national education goals. Some of USAARL's STEM education enrichment activities include STEM fun with Fort Rucker Child Development Center students, the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education program, and the GEMS program and Camp Invention, both sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program.

But USAARL is not the only organization at Fort Rucker aiming to enrich the STEM education of local students. The Fort Rucker CYS is also incorporating STEM activities into their year-round and summer camp lesson plans for children of all ages.

During summer 2018, the Fort Rucker SAC is offering "Summer of Discovery" camps featuring activities about dinosaurs and fossils, the rainforest and jungle, forensics and the human body, and the solar system and space. The camps include a variety of STEM experiments and field trips, like visits to USAARL GEMS and the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, that reinforce these themes. The field trips to USAARL GEMS coincided with the GEMS staff training week to give the SAC campers the chance to engage in fun, hands-on STEM experiments and provide the GEMS mentors a valuable teaching opportunity.

"When I asked past mentors how to improve staff training, the mentors consistently expressed a desire to teach children some of the GEMS experiments before the first session of GEMS actually started," said Dr. Loraine St. Onge, GEMS Laboratory Champion. "Knowing the Fort Rucker CYS' greater emphasis on STEM programming and our need to provide GEMS staff a real-world practice teaching experience, the SAC and USAARL teamed up to enhance the educational experiences of both the SAC campers and GEMS mentors."

The USAARL GEMS mentors led SAC 2nd through 6th grade campers through experiments that will be taught during this summer's four GEMS modules. Planetary GEMS mentors taught the campers about density and pressure. Neuroscience GEMS mentors led activities that taught SAC campers how germs spread, how visual impairments influence motor coordination, and how the body's reflexes work. At Biochemistry GEMS, the campers made snow, sherbet, and elephant toothpaste to learn about chemical reactions. And at Nanotechnology GEMS, campers learned about magnetic ferrofluid, how scents permeate plastic materials, and the hydrophobic properties of magic sand.

"The GEMS program has allowed our youth to continue an interest in math and science during our summer program while incorporating exciting experiments that were engaging and fun," said Therese Thurman, School Age Center supervisory program specialist. "The activities covered by GEMS coincided with what we have planned into our summer camps such as forensics/human body and space/solar system."

"It was really fun, I liked the science," said Grayson Parrish, 6 years old. "My favorite was the sour sherbet experiment."

St. Onge continued, "Giving students a taste of STEM in a fun and unique setting, not only creates excitement among the campers but hopefully nurture's their continued interest in STEM throughout the school year."

This extracurricular opportunity showcased to the SAC students a variety of STEM topics, and also allowed the GEMS staff essential practice teaching children in preparation for the GEMS program.

For more information about SAC summer camps visit https://rucker.armymwr.com/categories/cys-services.

To learn more about the USAARL STEM education enrichment activities visit http://www.usaarl.army.mil/pages/about/stem/.