The Governor's Program for Gifted Children

GPGC 2018 | JUNE 3 – JULY 21


Weekly Reports – Afternoon Classes

Most of our afternoon classes don’t lend themselves well to weekly reports – the students are learning songs to sing in Chorus, the music and dancing (and roller skating!) in Musical, their lines and blocking in Drama, etc. We are looking to do at least one in-depth post over the summer about each one of those classes but for now, here are some reports from the few afternoon classes for which a weekly check-in makes sense.

Understanding Biology (Daniel Chester, Instructor):

Week 1:
In the first week the class volunteered ideas for later class material and learned much of the basics of molecular biology. The fundamentals of DNA replication and RNA production were stressed with emphasis on the scientific contributions of Watson, Crick, Rosalind Franklin, Chargraff, and Avery. The “RNA World” hypothesis was introduced and towards the end of the week we began the “bone project”


Week 2:
In week 2, students assigned to groups of 3 or 4 chose a human bone and learned about the muscles and nerves that attached to it. Later they presented their findings to the rest of the class and took a brief quiz on bone histology and anatomy. We then transitioned from bone structure to the nervous system and learned about neurons and the synapse as well as simple reflex arcs. Neuroanatomy was briefly introduced and the students seem very eager to learn about the more complex workings of neuroscience to be covered early in week 3.
Students ponder a bone and its place in the human body.

Students ponder a bone and its place in the human body.

Critical Thinking (Jessica Markstrom, Instructor):
Week One: 
This week the students took a personality test that allowed the instructor to see what types of traits they had (e.g., shy, leader, etc.) in order to place them into teams.  We played numerous games in the course.  The games ranged from word association games (Anomia) to zero sum tactical games (Abalone, Chess, Hippos and Crocodiles, Stratego, Ticket to Ride, and Twixt).  Spatial games (Blockus, Set, Tsuro), word games (Bananagrams), and odds games (Zombie Dice) were also introduced to the class.
Week Two:
This week was puzzle week in Critical Thinking.  The students were challenged with various puzzle activities.  One activity had each team putting together a 1,000 piece puzzle during the period.  Another activity involved non-traditional 3 dimensional puzzles including placing odd shaped blocks back into cube-shaped box, a slide puzzle that was rectangular in shape in that students had to match the pattern and color on each side, and Cool Circuits (a spatial puzzle game regarding patterns and resource allocation).  The students had a packet of puzzles that included brain teasers, geometric puzzles, an extremely difficult sudoku puzzle, and mazes.  Another day of puzzle week included logic puzzles.
Debate (Jessica Markstrom, Instructor):
Week One: 
Students covered Aristotle’s tenants of persuasion and were taught proper debate notation skills (i.e. flowing).  Students were able to identify the 3 different types of debate resolutions (i.e., fact, value, and policy) and were able to write debate resolutions before the end of the week.  The prima facie burdens were introduced and students were able to collaborate to write an affirmative position as a class.
Week Two:
The students were able to identify the prima facie burdens as well as the parts of a plan during in-class activities.  The students engaged in mock debates in order to encourage the development of speaking skills.  Negative on-case argumentation types, such as “turns” and “take outs,” were introduced.  Students engaged in a second mock debate in which one student wrote and delivered an affirmative case and the other student provided negative refutation to the case.

Weekly Reports – Humanities

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. 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 archaeology 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. 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. They had plenty to say on the subject.

Humanities Two (Mr. Thomas Parrie, Instructor)

Week One:

We began the week with a discussion on what a utopian society is. Additionally, we discussed dystopias and the relationship between the two societal extremes. We read three short stories, “There Will Come Soft Rains,” by Ray Bradbury, “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut, and “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson. We discussed the types of societies and governmental structures in the stories. We talked about utopian/dystopian societies in history. I also taught them literary terms such as “foreshadowing” and “through line.” Next on our reading list is Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury.

Week Two:

This week we delved further into Fahrenheit 451 and discussed themes of alienation and disillusion, as well the effects of propaganda and mob mentality. We questioned the motives of the main characters and speculated what happened in the past and what might happen in the future in the novel’s world. We did some comparative analysis between “Soft Rains” and 451 as both were written by Bradbury. I asked them to pick one sentence or phrase in the novel that felt or seemed most poetic and to write it on the board, after which we had a poem that complemented the novel. Next week, I’m assigning to write a one to one half page response to the book in which they explain what they think. We will also begin Lord of the Flies.

Humanities II

Bronson Jordan ready to leap into a discussion during Humanities II.


Humanities Three (Mr. Avee Chaudhuri, Instructor)

Week One:

Generally, the students have been wonderful. They are certainly engaged in the class and have insightful comments to make about the texts we’ve been reading. We’re 100 pages into 1984.  We also read Donald Barthelme’s “I Bought a Little City”, which deals prominently with themes of tyranny, dystopia, and megalomania, though in a far less explicit (and arguably more artful) way than 1984. On Friday, they all presented on “I Bought a Little City.” Since this story is a bit more mature and ambiguous, I was a little concerned with how fully the students would understand it. However, almost all of the students were able to connect the story to 1984’s salient themes, as well as the class’s larger focus on utopia and dystopia. I am extremely impressed with the level of thought and self-expression the students have shown, both in these presentations and throughout the week during class discussions. Next week, the students will finish reading and discussing 1984, read, discuss and give presentations on Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Babylon Lottery”, and conduct a Kangaroo Court/Show Trial (postponed due to time).

Week Two:

During the second week of Humanities III, the class continued their lively discussion of dystopia.  The week began with a Kangaroo Court in which the class made false accusations against a single student, who happily volunteered to be put on trial. The point of this exercise was to imitate the arbitrary and illogical nature of judicial proceedings in failed states and dystopias. The class seemed to enjoy it and we will have at least one more Kangaroo Court during the semester. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday continuing to discuss 1984 and comparing the world it depicts to other ‘real life’ and literary dystopias. I am impressed with the class’s grasp of history. Several students confidently compared elements from the novel to Ancient Sparta, Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and the North Korea of the present. On Friday, students gave short, individual presentations on the Jorge Luis Borges short story “The Babylon Lottery.” Borges is a complex, highly erudite writer who is concerned with metaphysics, and I was slightly nervous as to how well this story would be understood. However, based on their presentations, the students seemed to fully comprehend the story and its relevance to our ongoing discussion about dystopia. Ultimately, this is a discussion centered course, or literary seminar, and it is largely the students’ onus to provide for a stable, civil, and earnest intellectual environment. So far, they’ve exceeded all expectations.  

Weekly Reports – Science

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:

This week was very busy.  I got to know the students better and they are wonderful.  They had to measure many things showing me they knew how to use the instruments of science.  We had rulers, meter sticks, tape measures, thermometers, triple-beam balances, stop watches, protractors, etc.  We finished up with the Starlab Planetarium.  They looked at constellations, colors and temperature of stars, longitude, latitude, plates, volcanoes, Native American Indian constellations, animal cell, cell reproduction, and how color effects our eyes.  Friday we have class competition.  Below are some pictures with the students and the Starlab Planetarium.

Students in front of the Starlab.

Students in front of the Starlab.

Students in front of the Starlab.

Students in front of the Starlab.

Inside the Starlab.

Inside the Starlab.

Mr. Newman leading the journey through the Starlab.

Mr. Newman leading the journey through the Starlab.

Sophomore Science (Mr. Bill Guillotte, Instructor)

Week One: 

We began our journey through the Scientific Method by preparing ourselves for safety in the lab. We watched a college chemistry lab tutorial and took notes on proper lab safety procedures, proper lab apparel, and steps to take if there is an emergency.

We continued our journey by trying to build a free standing paper tower using only 1 piece of copy paper and scissors(the tallest I have ever seen is 1.05 meters). We discussed different ideas, had many different thoughts, and lots of trials, but the tallest tower was only about 60 cm. The students didn’t realize they were using  the steps of the scientific method. We then had a discussion on the steps of the scientific method that we would be using for this class.

The next step in our journey found us using the steps of the scientific method to discover which color M&M occurs most in an individual size bag of M&M’s. Sophomore II found that the green M&M occurs most often, while Sophomore I found that blue occurred the most. Then the students ate their M&M’s. (Science can be delicious)

The next step in our journey was to discover how many drops of water would fit on the heads side of a penny. Students worked through the procedures for a total of 10 trials and recorded their data in a chart. They then used their data chart to create a graph displaying their findings. One group was able to get an average of 25 drops of water to fit on the penny. (Most of our students made an hypothesis of 3-5 drops)

We also used some time this week to transplant our tomato plants and lay the foundation for our “Tomato Plant Growth” project. We will be using plant food for our independent variable in our attempt to find a way to make tomato plants grow taller.

Week Two:

Our journey this week in Science 2 took us into the world of aerodynamics, density, and air pressure. The students hypothesized on how they could create an airplane that could fly farther. They tested their hypothesis and we had some very creative modifications. As it is with science, some worked and some did not.

We used our scientific method to discover the world of density and buoyancy. A regular egg will not float in water because the egg is more dense than the water. We hypothesized different ways to change the density of the water and discovered by adding 35g of salt per Milli-liter of water we could make the egg float.

Lastly this week, we used only air pressure to crush an aluminum can. By heating 50ml of water in the bottom of the can until it boils and then turning the can upside down in a container of ice cold water, we were able to crush the aluminum can by lowering the air pressure inside the can.

Senior Science (Dr. Linda Brannon, Instructor)

Week One:

Week one of Senior Science was a reintroduction for many of the students to some of the basics of research design. With the combination of reviewing the material on the pretest and developing science projects; the two go together well. We discussed elements of the experimental method, including the concepts of independent variable (IV) and dependent variable (DV) and the necessity of control. I led students who have decided on science projects to evaluate if their study was an experiment, and if so, to identify their independent variable. Some students could do so, and others had not analyzed their study well enough to distinguish their general procedure from the specific elements of IV and DV. Working toward making this abstract information concrete and personal is an important step for students in this class, and we will work on it more.

Also during week one the class was split into two sections – one that are doing science projects and one that will do a group project (as they are doing either Humanities or Composition as their senior projects). The group project section spent most of the week talking about the history of science, including how the limits on access to education as well as social attitudes restricted science throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. We also explored the impact of the development of science on people’s lives, focusing on the areas of physiology and medicine.

Week Two:

Project students started to turn in project proposals and discuss their suitability for the constraints we have during the summer. Both classes discussed the underlying principles of science and proceeded to cover the various types of descriptive research and then experimental designs. One student conducting a science project is doing a survey, one of the descriptive designs, and several others are conducting experiments. My focus for the first part of the week was to lead the students conducting studies to understand how their studies match the various designs we are discussing. That is, we are trying to integrate the abstract information about science and research designs into the activities they are performing.

We ended the week with our first visit to the rat lab. In contrast to stereotypes, laboratory rats are cute, furry creatures that GPGC students are anxious to hold. So the visit to the rat lab involved some one-on-one rat-giftie contact, with no harm to either.

Three students are working on science projects in the rat lab, and students conducting studies on other topics will have the opportunity to participate in a rat study. Love those rats!


What’s on the Menu?

So far we haven’t heard many complaints about the cafeteria – and trust us when we say it used to be a lot less appealing. However, you may be wondering what your student is being offered each day – so here’s the link to the cafeteria’s website where you can see a daily menu.

You will need to use the drop-down menu at the top of the page to see the menu choices for where the GPGC kids eat. The cafeteria is called “Rowdy’s.”

This menu doesn’t include all of the things that the cafeteria offers on a daily basis including a salad bar, a sandwich bar, cereal bar, and a waffle making station.

Mid-Summer Madness Concert Announced

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 30th, 2015 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.

Starting a New Tradition

After the first few days of the Program it’s very rare, until the end of the Program, to see all of the students gathered in the same place at the same time. In order to create a little better sense of community, as well as to take advantage of having the students together in one place on a regular basis, we have started this summer to have a short, ten minute morning assembly before classes start each day.

It’s our plan to have different faculty and staff members, students, and invited guests share stories, wisdom, and thoughts with the students each day. We’ll see how it goes and evolves but for now, we took the opportunity to take a picture of all the students.


The 2015 GPGC Student Body (at the beginning).

Classes, Schedules, Meetings, and Rain

The first few days of the Program have gone pretty well considering the controlled chaos that is necessary at the beginning of our endeavor. The students have now had two days of their academic (morning classes) and are starting to get reading and writing assignments in them.

Yesterday they had a selection meeting for their afternoon classes – all of the afternoon faculty talked about the different classes that are being offered this summer and invited the students to ask questions and select their classes. After that meeting the rest of the afternoon was given over to auditions for the chorus, musical, and drama.

The first few days are chock full of meetings. In addition to the one mentioned above, there’s an orientation meeting the first night (Sunday) in which the rules of student life are gone over, pressing questions are answered, and the housing staff is introduced. Then, Monday night, there is a meeting about the sign-out procedures as well as a meeting about the GPGC Government where the students are introduced to the concept of the functioning, responsible government here at the GPGC as well as the consequences that may happen if the government ceases to be responsible and fails to function properly.


Mr. Brown explains what will happen if the Government fails to meet its obligations.

We’re pretty much done with the large meetings now – the students are ready to begin settling in to their summer routines. Today they went to their afternoon classes for the first time and will be able to change classes for the next few days if they’d like something different.

We also have experienced our first drenching – we thought we had made it without getting the students wet while they changed classes in the afternoon but right after dinner the skies opened and those students not prepared with rain gear got pretty wet. Please send in raincoats, umbrellas, etc. – unless it’s storming we have the students walk from class to class and they really need proper gear.

GPGC 2015 Begins Today!

Today is check-in day for the GPGC 2015 Session. A hearty welcome back to all of our returning students and an especially warm welcome to our new students. Here is today’s schedule of events:

11:00 AM – Check in for new students (Collette Hall)

Lunch on your own

1:00 PM – Check in for returning students (Collette Hall)

2:00 PM – New Student Orientation and Campus Tour (Begins in the Lobby of Collette Hall)

2:30 PM – Parent Meeting (Baker Auditorium, Farrar Hall)

5:30 PM – All Students should be back in the dorm

6:00 PM – Dinner

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
Fax: 337.475.5447