The Governor's Program for Gifted Children

GPGC 2018 | JUNE 3 – JULY 21

GPGC Blog

Weekly Reports – Composition – Weeks One and Two

Here are the reports from the Composition teachers for Weeks One and Two.

Freshmen Composition (Mrs. Cecil Tate, Instructor)

Week One:

During the first week, the I required the students to write a letter introducing themselves to me, but they had to include a self portrait with the letter. This assignment allows me to assess their grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and sentence structure skills while learning a little about them as individuals. The class worked on pre-writing techniques in order to generate material for use in later writings. We ended with a “debate” that made it clear that these students have some very strong opinions! I hope they enjoyed the week as much as I did.
Week Two:
The freshman classes had a very good week. They practiced adding elaboration to concrete details in paragraphs they wrote. Next they chose a character from The Odyssey, decided on two outstanding character traits then used his/her actions in the epic to illustrate those traits. The students enjoyed writing poems and haikus and sharing those poems with their classmates.
Sophomore Composition (Ms.Stacey Simien, Instructor)
Week One: 
We wrote Imaginative Stories with a focus on Plot. Thank you for sharing your kids with me this summer.
Week Two: 
Descriptive essays
Senior Composition (Mr.Cody Magee, Instructor)
Week One: 

This week we discussed class format as well as senior projects. We also discussed the way that ideas can be formed into arguments for the purpose of essay writing, as well as writing about the writing process in craft essays (metacognition). 

Week Two: 
This week we worked on poetry. We spent time looking at a poetry packet made of poems picked out by the students. We talked about formal elements of poems and how these elements impact meaning. The students worked on poems of their own to be submitted the following Monday. 

Weekly Reports – Humanities – Weeks One and Two

Here are some reports from the teachers of each of our Humanities classes for the first two weeks of the Program. We have organized them by class:

Freshmen Humanities (Ms. Kristen Harrell, Instructor)

Week One:
On Monday, we began classes by discussing the Latin phrase on their t-shirts and what that meant in the context of this class and the program. This led into what the Latin and Greek languages were/are and why they were important to Western Civilization. They were given a Greek alphabet sheet as well as a list of ancient Greek names and their meanings. Their homework for the next few days was to choose a name from that list to be their own for the class. This usually leads to a discussion on etymology and the understanding of English words with Greek roots. I also gave them a cheat sheet of sorts that they can use for their cursive handwriting. I have been tremendously proud of them and have told them that they have better handwriting than my high school students.


Also this week, we delved into the pre-Greek culture; the Minoans and the Mycenaeans. We discussed their beliefs their structures and inferred a great deal about their lives by looking at the ruins and artifacts from the palace complex of Knossos. They understood that with a lack of written history, understanding archeology and art history can help fill in the gaps.


The Greek ‘middle ages’ discussion was dominated by the Iliad and the Odyssey and how that sets a standard for any epic tale or journey story for the western world even into modern society. We discussed the Greek hero and what were considered the most desirable traits for a Greek. They agreed that it was different from today’s standards. I quizzed them over this material with an Open Notes Quiz and was able to gauge their progress in composition with a free response worksheet. We finished the week by watching excerpts from the miniseries, “The Odyssey”, and discussing everything from its accuracy, the set design, to the ‘Hollywood’ changes.

Week Two:

We began the week by talking about the importance and the evolution of the polis. How did this change Greek society? How did the polis rise up in importance? The students also analyzed some archaeological evidence. We also had a test over the first week’s material of which I was very pleased, though some of the students might not be. Next, we delved into the ancient Greeks viewed religion and how it differs from modern concepts of religion. These discussions led us into the polytheism of the Greeks; what we know today as Greek mythology. Of course, most of the student adored this part of the lesson.


For the second half of the week, we talked about the colonization of the Greeks in the Mediterranean and its difference from European mercantilism. The students loved our discussion over the polis of Sparta and how the Spartans fear and paranoia led to their military state. We also looked at history in Hollywood and how the subject fares in the medium of cinema. For homework they were asked to answer four critical thinking questions/prompts concerning Sparta.

Humanities Two (Mr. Cody Magee, Instructor)

Week One:

This week we set foundations for the course, discussed Utopia as an ideal and how that ideal fails when applied in real life. We read some short stories in the genre and discussed matters of justice and morality. We also discussed the historical context of the stories and how literature can serve as the window into studying any one time or period.

Week Two:

This week we worked on more dystopian literature. We finished reading the second part of Fahrenheit 451, as well as two short stories. We discussed some parallels between these “future worlds” and our own. Finally, we continued applying some of the issues regarding equality, freedom, social justice, and civics as we moved forward to begin designing our own utopia.

Humanities Three (Mr. Avee Chaudhuri, Instructor)

Week One:

Class began in earnest on Tuesday when we discussed dystopia and utopia within the context of the “GPGC Canon.” The students talked about the texts they’ve read during previous summers: Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, and The Giver, and how these books have helped inform their understanding of real-world dictatorships and totalitarian states. As usual, the students are able to discuss grave subjects in a very mature, intelligent, incisive and often humorous manner. On Wednesday, students received their copies of 1984 and we discussed the historical backdrop against which Orwell wrote both 1984 and Animal Farm. We also talked more generally about why speculative dystopian fiction remains so popular in the West. On Thursday, we discussed the first four chapters of 1984. Popular topics from that discussion include the idea of conformity, surveillance, and whether our society, like Oceania’s, has become too desensitized to violence and human suffering (the students say “no”). On Friday, students presented on Donald Barthelme’s “I Bought a Little City.”

Week Two:

The students spent Monday finishing their individual presentations on “I Bought A Little City” by Donald Barthelme. Tuesday through Thursday were devoted to class discussion on 1984. These discussions are going well, although I’ve had to remind the class about providing textual evidence to support their comments about the novel. Recurring topics were the psychosexual development of Winston and Julia, Julia’s hedonism, competing epistemological philosophies and their relevance to a totalitarian state, and the relationship between language and thought. On Friday, we held a show trial or kangaroo court in class. I do this to demonstrate how arbitrary and absurd justice can be in a singleminded, totalitarian state. We tried Bronson Jordan for several heinous crimes, including murdering a Papa John’s delivery man, slapping a fellow student, stealing brain bucks, and using his editorial position on The Thinker to embarrass GPGC teachers. Naturally, he claims to be innocent. We will wrap up our discussion of 1984 next week and the students will sit for an essay exam on 1984 on Thursday or Friday.


Weekly Reports – Grad Classes – Weeks One and Two

Our older students (9th and 10 graders usually) are called “Grads” here at the Program. That’s a long story for another day but these students take college-level classes in the morning. This summer we are offering English (Creative Writing), Psychology in Film, and Special Topics in Criminal Justice.. Here are reports from Weeks One and Two for each of those classes.

Creative Writing (Mr. Avee Chaudhuri, Instructor):

Week One: 

I spent Monday and Tuesday introducing, or re-introducing, myself to students. On Wednesday, I went over the syllabus and I explained my expectations for workshop. We talked a bit about the historiographical relevance of poetry and fiction, i.e. how creative texts form a cohesive alternative to national myths and narratives. I think this was an important discussion to have because hopefully it has disabused students of the belief that this class, because it’s largely craft-centered, will be intellectually or analytically shallow. On Thursday, we read and discussed the rules for writing put forth by several prominent authors in list form. These lists often contradict one another, and illustrate that there are no set rules for writing well. To each his or her own. The following maxim from Jonathan Franzen engendered the most debate: “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” I was surprised to learn that many students agree with Franzen. I asked students to compile their own lists on writing well. They shared their lists on Friday and we began talking about poetry. I used William Blake’s “The Tyger” to review certain traditional elements of poetical language: rhyme, meter, lineation, etc. Next week, I’ll give the students a selection of contemporary poetry which challenges these conventions.

Week Two:

The Grad English class began the week by reading the poetry of Russell Edson, specifically “Ape” and “On The Eating of Mice.” Edson is considered the “father of the modern prose poem.” We talked at length about what distinction, if any, exists between prose poetry and micro- or flash fiction. The class readily, perhaps too readily, accepted my thesis that it is a matter of literary marketing, admittedly a jaded outlook but I think a fair one. We then discussed the lyrical and narrative impulses in poetry by reading Pablo Neruda and Kevin Young. I tried to disabuse the students of the belief that the lyrical and narrative impulses are mutually exclusive, although it remains to be seen how successful I was. On Wednesday we began discussing intertextuality and ekphrasis in poetry. On Thursday we discussed the political connotations of poetry, the visual elements of poetry, and I also lectured briefly on the Cento. We concluded the week by discussing how the poetry workshop will run next week, and doing a practice workshop.

Special Topics in Criminal Justice (Mrs. Jessica Markstorm, Instructor):

Week One:

This week was defined by the question “what is criminal justice?” Types of crimes ranging from mala prohibita, mala in se, felonies, misdemeanors, cybercrime, occupational crime, and visible crime were introduced to students. The elements of a crime, including mens rea, were discussed and a Supreme Court case was used to demonstrate statutory crimes, which do not require mens rea. Students debated the merits of the due process criminal model versus the crime control model. The week ended with an evaluation of victimology that included a discussion on who is most likely to be a victim of crime.

Week Two:

This week we discussed basic due process rights. We briefly covered the civil liberties established in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th amendments. Supreme Court cases such as Gideon v. Wainright were used to illustrate incorporation of civil liberties to state governments. Students were introduced to defenses and excuses for committing crimes. Special attention was placed on Louisiana’s insanity excuse requirements. We also discussed basic aspects of policing, requirements of joining the police force, styles of policing, and the different sources of stress for police officers.

Psychology (Dr. Linda Brannon, Instructor):

Week One:

This session’s topic in psychology is Psychology in the Movies, and my goal is to present topics in perception, learning, memory, sleep and dreams, hypnosis, and altered states of consciousness from drugs. I hope to funnel these topics into the question: Is mind control possible? To accomplish the goal of exposing students to these topics in psychology and exploring the possibility of mind control, we will see movies that touch on these topics.

We began with a discussion of the definition of psychology and progressed to the history of psychology and how psychologists consider psychology to be a science. Many people have trouble accepting psychology as a science, partly because they focus on psychologists as therapists and partly because they view psychology as a subject that cannot fit within the rules of science.

To examine the discrepancy between the scientific view and mystical views, I showed the students scenes from the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which presents a clash of views revolving around the death of a young woman, Emily Rose. One view is that Emily suffered from a medical condition; the other view is that Emily was possessed by demons. I wanted students to evaluate the evidence (as depicted in the movie). We will continue with some analysis and discussion next week and then proceed to topics of perception and learning.

Week Two:

This week was devoted to the topic of learning. We began with classical conditioning—Pavlov and the slobbering dogs—and analyzed that process. Then, we discussed the factors of consistency and timing, which affect this process of associative learning. Classical conditioning applies to a number of everyday responses, so we talked about examples from our own lives.

We moved on to the topic of operant conditioning, with the concepts of reinforcement and punishment. Students have some experience of positive reinforcement through the token economy, but we discussed examples and applications of this type of learning.

Students had a written assignment that covered psychology as a science and classical and operant conditioning.

Students saw the movie The Matrix to introduce the topic of perception, and we began a discussion of how tied we all are to our sensory and perceptual limitations.


Weekly Reports – Science – Weeks One and Two

Here are some reports from the teachers of each of our Science classes for the first two weeks of the Program. We have organized them by class:

Freshmen Science (Mr. Jimmy Newman, Instructor)

Week One

The freshmen science students learned about the nature of science by working together and alone to experience inductive and deductive reasoning, the need for motivation to do science, generating data, collecting data, interpreting the data, the importance of communication of this data, and respect for others especially in their findings. These things were accomplished through the historical studies of Thales, Democritus, Ptolemy, Galileo, and Newton. The students discovered patterns in activities and drew conclusions from these patterns. They were exposed to the wrong conclusions (logical fallacies) just as Ptolemy was. They were tested on the scientific method.

Week Two

The freshmen science students learned about how people can be mistaken so easily by completing the Dragon Illusion. We also discussed the 3 laws of motion and we did a ‘Story with Holes.’ The week ended by us going into Starlab Planetarium for 2 days and we looked at constellations, Greek Mythology, colors of stars and temperature, how to read star maps, the living cell, faults and ridges of the planet earth, the continents of the globe, and Native American constellations. Take a look at the pictures below.

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Sophomore Science (Mr. Justin Higginbotham, Instructor)

Week One

All of the students were very productive and attentive this week! We investigated some chemical properties of various metals and used a flame test to observe the color of these metals in an excited state. Students worked in groups to design an experiment and identify unknown metal compounds. Students then prepared formal lab reports and use peer review techniques to critique lab reports.

Week Two

Students investigated the effectiveness of various antacid tablets and participated in the peer review process of lab reports.

Senior Science (Dr. Linda Brannon, Instructor)

Week One

For the Seniors, Week 1 was devoted to choosing the area in which they plan to complete their senior projects and forming plans to proceed. The first day of class was devoted to exploration of students’ ideas for science projects and my evaluation of how feasible those ideas were. (Similar discussions occurred for other areas.) Six of twelve students chose science projects, and all have feasible ideas that they are working to develop.

The students also completed a pre-test to allow me to know the status of their science knowledge and to assess their progress at the end of the session. Lecture and class discussion will cover material on this test to allow students to develop their understanding of terminology in science as well as the processes involved in conducting research.

We split the week with lectures and discussions of terminology and history of science and developing the ideas for senior projects. One part of that development involved developing a background, and I found a background study that relates to each of the projects to get students started in understanding past research on their topics. Another way in which students progressed with projects was writing a brief description of the proposed study.

Week Two

Week 2 was devoted to covering background in science to bring all students to a correct usage of terminology and to explore various research methods. We discussed the history of science, from beginning to the present, then reviewed the scientific method, talked about descriptive research methods, and finished with experimental methods. I presented the challenges and advantages of various choices, tying the discussion to students’ projects to give them suggestions about developing their studies. Students completed a worksheet for a grade, and everyone did well. I handed out a second worksheet that is due on Monday.

On Friday, we visited the McNeese Animal Behavior Lab (rat lab) to introduce students to the equipment and procedure for collecting data in this setting.


Mid-Summer Madness Concert – June 29th at 7:00 PM

We have just added an event to our calendar – the annual Mid-Summer Madness Concert. This is a short concert by our Large Ensemble as well as selected students performing solos and small ensemble works. It’s at 7 pm on June 29th, 2016 and it will take place in the Tritico Theater (recently known as the Shearman Fine Arts Theater) on the campus of McNeese State University. The public is welcome to attend and there is no admission charge.






Morning Classes!

Mornings here at the program are focused on core subjects important to every young student.  These are our Humanities II and Psych 001 classes:

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GPGC gave me a sense of community,


a place where being smart was acceptable, where bullying was not the norm, and where creativity was welcomed.


– Cashman P., Alumnus

The Governor's Program for Gifted Children MSU Box 91490
McNeese State University
Lake Charles, LA 70609

Tel: 800.291.7840
M337.475.5446
Fax: 337.475.5447