NATICK, Mass. (Feb. 10, 2020) -- Registration is open for the 2020 Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science program, an extracurricular science education summer program that enables middle-school-aged students to experience science in a laboratory setting.GEMS has a multidisciplinary educational agenda, and students participate in grade-appropriate activities related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The program is sponsored by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and will be located at the Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts.GEMS is open to the public and is aimed to reach students who are historically underserved or underrepresented in STEM. According to Maj. Robin Cushing, the USARIEM GEMS program director, the program provides an exciting platform for students to get involved in hands-on science activities that are also applicable to real-life STEM careers."There are so many interesting and exciting ways that STEM is used in real life," Cushing said. "We hope that by participating in the GEMS program, budding scientists, who might not otherwise give serious thought to becoming scientists or engineers, might develop a passion for STEM and choose to pursue it in a career."Students who are in grades fifth through ninth are eligible to attend. GEMS is offered at no cost to participants.The USARIEM GEMS program has three sessions, GEMS I, II and III. Each GEMS session allows students to return the following summer, slowly building on the lessons learned the summer before, and encourages the growth of future scientific leaders. Parents or legal guardians may sign their child up for only one GEMS session each year. GEMS I, which runs on July 13-16 and July 20-23, is available for students in grades fifth through seventh. GEMS II, which runs on July 27-30 and Aug. 3-6, is available for students in grades sixth through eighth. GEMS III, which runs on Aug. 10-13 and Aug. 17-20, is available for students who are entering grades seventh through ninth.GEMS is also looking for local college and high school students to apply as "Near Peer Mentors." Near Peer Mentors work alongside teachers and Army research scientists to lead the GEMS classes and serve as role models for the students. Before their arrival, Near Peer Mentors complete extensive training at a science boot camp, in which they learn how to conduct and teach GEMS experiments. Near Peer Mentors must be 16 years of age or older.Every day in the lab offers new and exciting activities for the GEMS students. Students can spend the day extracting DNA from strawberries and spinach, learning about blood types in the Crime Scene Investigation class, programming robots to navigate through obstacle courses and taking field trips to the Biomechanics Laboratory in NSSC to learn how Army scientists study how Soldiers' bodies move.GEMS is part of the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program. The USAEOP has a long history of recognizing that having scientifically and technologically literate citizens is the country's best hope for a secure, rewarding and successful future.GEMS began in 2005 as a single program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. GEMS has grown to 14 sites in 10 states across major U.S. Army research installations, including USARIEM. The USARIEM GEMS program runs annually from July to August.Space is limited, and registration is open to the public. All participants must be U. S. citizens or U.S. permanent legal residents. All participants who are selected and successfully participate in GEMS qualify for an educational stipend to offset any cost to the student or family to participate. Priority will go to underserved or underrepresented children.Participants can expect a week of fun as they try their hands at various scientific laboratory activities and enjoy a day of learning with kids their age. Those who are interested in registering their children as GEMS students and those who are interested in becoming Near Peer Mentors can apply by visiting the USAEOP website, https://www.usaeop.com/program/natick, and clicking the "Apply Now" button. Registration will close on April 1, 2020.For additional information about the USARIEM GEMS program, e-mail robin.e.cushing.mil@mail.mil.