The Governor's Program for Gifted Children

GPGC 2024 | JUNE 9 – JULY 27


Weekly Reports – Grad Classes

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 International Relations. Here are reports from Weeks One and Two for each of those classes.

Creative Writing (Mr. Thomas Parrie, Instructor):

Week One: 

This week we began the poetry unit by talking about how to “turn something on its head.” The “theme” for the class is an attempt to “make the familiar new again.” I’ve been giving them poems published by acclaimed poets and we’ve been discussing them with an eye for craft as well as vision. They’ve also been writing poems in class based off of a prompt in which they take an image that is ordinary and they give it meaning that is unique to them. Next week we’ll begin workshopping their original poems.

Week Two:

This week we read and discussed several poems from a diverse group of poets. They turned in two original poems for workshop. They analyzed and critiqued the poems by looking at content and craft with an eye on how to implement the most impressive elements into their own works. We also focused on social justice and what it means today in the world as well as in 21st century America. We also explored poems that are more cerebral and poems that are light hearted, yet are thought provoking or makes commentary on the human experience in the modern world.

International Relations (Mrs. Jessica Markstorm, Instructor):

Week One:

Students were introduced to basic concepts of International Relations such as power, purpose, and institutions. Basic types of actors were discussed and students were able to provide common examples of each type of actor. Students were able to take theories and international law on the recognition of statehood and apply it to modern issues (i.e., Palestine). A brief explanation of world history occurred with a focus on sovereignty, imperialism, WWI, WWII, the Cold War, mutually assured destruction, and decolonialism. At the end of the week students were assigned hypothetical countries in which they decided their government regime type and began interacting with each other to simulate a world environment.

Week Two:

Students were introduced to paradigms and theories this week. The major prevailing paradigms of international relations, realism and liberalism, were explained with in-class activities, historical examples, current event examples, a short movie celebrating the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Organization, a short movie on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, and scenes from the movie “Mean Girls.” In addition to discussing the major assumptions of each paradigm, hegemonic stability theory, balance of power theory, complex interdependence theory, and liberal institutionalism were all incorporated into the class lectures.

Psychology (Dr. Linda Brannon, Instructor):

Week One:

The topic of this year’s Psychology class is “Psychology Through the Movies,” which will consist of an examination of a selection of topics within psychology illustrated (sometimes inaccurately) in movies. The areas revolve around social psychology, Freudian theory, mental disorders, and treatment of mental disorders.


We discussed images of psychology and how strongly media depictions of psychology influence those images—which focus on psychology as treatment—lead to distorted images of psychology. Students’ most prominent image of psychology resembled Sigmund Freud, whom we discussed briefly; I pointed out that Freud was important to developing the notion of talk-based treatment, but he was a neurologist, not a psychologist.

We explored the professions of clinical psychology and psychiatry, comparing and contrasting the two professions in terms of background and training, theoretical orientations to treatment, and employment. We briefly discussed how one of the traditional differences—prescription privileges—is no longer restricted to MDs in some states. We also discussed the many degrees that confer the title of Dr. on recipients and how MDs are not the only profession that should be addressed with that title.


We extended our discussion of mental health care professions by covering counseling (both school counseling and licensed professional counselors) and social work, detailing the background and training for these professions. I presented the definition of psychology, which says that psychology is the science of behavior and mental processes, not the study of the mind. We discussed some of the challenges and misconceptions of psychology as a science.


We began considering the many areas of psychology that are not related to treatment, most of which fall into the research areas, including social psychology.

Week Two:

We discussed the social psychology point of view (to which the kids showed some initial skepticism). That view holds that people are more affected by their social surroundings than by personality factors. As an example of how powerful surrounding are, I had chosen the Stanford Prison study. We saw scenes from the movie, The Experiment, which is a fictionalized (sensationalized) presentation of this study.

We continued our discussion about the Stanford Prison Study and saw additional scenes from The Experiment. The focus was on the ethics of the experiment, and I asked students to identify differences between the movie and the study. This line of questioning led us to the Department of Health and Human Services guidelines on the Protection of Human Subjects (HHS Title 45, Part 46), which was not in effect at the time of the Stanford Prison Study but which Zimbardo followed in terms of informed consent and right to withdraw. The portrayal the study in The Experiment contained many violations of research ethics, which we discussed.


We discussed Asch’s study on conformity, including a class re-enactment (which we all enjoyed) and a video clip from Candid Camera showing the power of others’ behavior to provoke conformity, even without a word spoken. I asked a question about using this powerful force to encourage good behavior rather than bad, which resulted in an interesting discussion.


Students saw 12 Angry Men and came to class ready to discuss the group processes in the movies, which seemed to include a situation similar to Asch’s conformity study. However, the jury situation includes persuasion, and we discussed some of the factors that contribute to group decision making, such as group polarization (the tendency for groups to adopt more extreme solutions than individuals would). We talked about what would increase this phenomenon and what might decrease it in government and business settings.

Weekly Reports – Composition

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

Freshmen Composition (Mrs. Cecil Tate, Instructor)

Week One:

The students wrote letters introducing themselves to me.  They were free to tell me whatever they thought was important and interesting about themselves. The letters were great and very creative.  They also made a list of their favorite books and wrote reviews for their top three.  Each day the students wrote a journal entry which provided practice for a writing technique.One of the techniques the students enjoyed was the cubing exercise.  They used a paper clip to practice the six ways of writing about a subject or object. They really liked arguing for or against paper clips – or maybe they just enjoyed arguing!
Week Two:
This week the goal was to have the students use various sources as inspiration for compositions  The class used their journals as a brainstorming source in order to develop a personal narrative. They read a translation of Plato’s “ Death of Socrates” and short biography about the life of Socrates which they used to write a short description of his trial.  Next, they practiced varying their sentence structure by imitating examples of sentences by various famous authors.
Sophomore Composition (Ms. Talisha Shelly, Instructor)
Week One: 
In week one, a combination of lecture/discussion/workshop teaching style was employed. To start the week, we worked on familiarizing (or refamiliarizing) ourselves with the writing process, and students wrote down their goals and intentions for the class (which will be revisited during the final week of class). On Tuesday I lectured about the various components of an essay, and on Wednesday and Thursday we discussed the importance of imagination to the writing process (research, prewriting, drafting, editing, revision). Poems by Shel Silvertein were read aloud, along with a short story called “Zolaria” by Caitlin Horrocks–which featured basilisks, space dolphins and other mystical creatures–to demonstrate imaginative writing. For homework, the students wrote their own imaginative stories, and presented them in class; I pointed out the importance of reading aloud, audience awareness and the similarities between essay and story writing.
Week Two: 
During week two, a combination of lecture and discussion teaching style was employed. To start the week, we read and discussed a handout (“Choosing a Topic for Your Essay”); for homework, students were assigned to come up with their own topics for the first essay assignment (Descriptive Essay), based on their personal interests and the world around them. On Monday, students were provided with guidelines for writing the essay. Poems by Shel Silverstein, Robert Hayden and Joy Harjo were also read to demonstrate the components of good descriptive writing.On Tuesday, students worked on prewriting and drafting in class; students were to finish writing rough drafts for homework. On Wednesday, I lectured briefly about common errors in essay writing (word choice, point of view, tone/audience awareness, etc.), then students conducted peer reviews in pairs and worked on corrections. For homework, students completed final drafts of their Descriptive Essays. On Thursday, we read an article (“How Modern Life Depletes Our Gut Microbes”) and began discussing the next essay assignment (Comparative Essay). For homework, students were asked to brainstorm topics for the Comparative Essay assignment.
Senior Composition (Ms. Kristina McBride, Instructor)
Week One: 

The first week of the summer, the class picked up from where they left off at the end of last summer. After taking time in the first two days of class to reacquaint ourselves and decide on focus for senior projects, we discussed the poetry presentations that will be due near the end of the summer. Each student will choose a style, form, or movement of poetry to research and teach. The class then spent time reviewing paragraph and essay structure before working on the first writing assignment, a persuasive essay speaking from the perspective of a holiday’s mascot persuading another holiday’s mascot of their superiority. On Thursday the class debated on which of the class chosen holidays is more important or significant. Friday will be spent working on some in class writing as a way to distinguish between favorite and best through the righting of movie reviews.

Week Two: 
On Monday the class discussed the movie reviews they wrote on Friday, and we created a criteria for a universally good movie. After that discussion we applied that idea to what a good essay should look like, creating a rubric for their persuasive essay they had written and brought to class. After the discussion, the class switched essays and completed peer reviews, focusing on constructive criticism. Monday night’s homework was to read a short essay by Ray Bradbury titled “Just this Side of Byzantium” that was included in his introduction to his novel Dandelion Wine. On Tuesday we discussed Bradbury’s essay and his method for writing. We also discussed how despite how little life experience one may have, everyone has a story to tell that is both universal and personal. We then read a chapter of Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird titled “Short Assignments.” We looked at ways to tackle writing and life challenges by taking them on a little piece at a time, or “bird by bird.” We talked about Lamott’s idea of using a one inch picture frame as a reminder that you only need to focus on a small section of an idea at a time in order to complete a project, whether it be a writing assignment or a life goal. On Wednesday the class created their own one inch picture frames and decorated them. Thursday was spent beginning reading “The Thing in the Forest” by A. S. Byatt. On Friday the class used their one inch picture frames to look at the world around them to write a story that would fit within the one inch frame.

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.

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