The Governor's Program for Gifted Children

GPGC 2023 | JUNE 4 – JULY 22


Weekly Reports – Sciences, Week Two

Here are some reports from the teachers of each of our Science classes for last week in the Program. We have organized them by class:


Freshman Science & Sophomore Science (Ms. Keesha Jennings, Instructor)

Freshmen: This week was all about geometry and physics. We built gumdrop structures to learn that when a force is added to a triangle it is spread evenly through all three sides. We also built catapults to discover how it is possible to use stored energy to hurl a projectile or payload.

Sophomore: This week we started off with a discussion about saturation and solubility. The students discovered that heat can affect how fast and how much of a solute is dissolved in a substance. We wrapped up the week with a fun hands-on experiment using oobleck to learn about viscosity and non-Newtonian fluids.


Senior Science (Dr. Linda Brannon, Instructor)

Week 2 was devoted to 1) covering background in science to bring all students toward an accurate understanding and usage of terminology, 2) exploring various research methods, 3) connecting the methods to the studies of students doing science projects, and 4) introducing students doing to the class study to the concepts and procedures for that study.


Weekly Reports – Composition, Week Two

Here are some reports from the teachers of each of our Composition classes for the last week in the Program. We have organized them by class:

Sophomore Composition (Ms. Stacey Simien, Instructor)

This week was short story week. We started the week off learning about, reading, and writing flash fiction pieces. We used the 8pt story arc, instead of the Freytag’s plot pyramid. Student flash fiction pieces were the best I’ve read in years and what made it challenging for the students is that they couldn’t have more than 500 words, this was a real struggle for many of them. We ended the week with each student analyzing an assigned short story and creating a Google Slides presentation about their story to present in class next week. (kind of a book report)


Weekly Reports – Humanities, Week Two

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

Freshmen Humanities (Ms. Kristen Harrell, Instructor)

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 with their results. 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. I’m afraid that I might have burst the bubbles for many students who no longer want to run off and become Spartans.


Sophomore Humanities (Kevin Delaney, Instructor) 

We started the week with a quiz on the different types of government and the state of Nature. Students were suppose to have read Book I of Utopia, we conducted a discussion on that and various societal issues presented such as poverty, thievery, and begging. Further discussion was held on the nature of virtue, religion, morals, and human happiness. Discussion was also held on the value of money and currency and why it exists and how a Utopia could exist without currency. Students also related the law of Nature and aspects of virtue to the Utopians view and treatment of gold, silver, and other precious minerals. The Utopia Project was introduced and students were asked to create 3 groups, each being responsible for a different project.


Senior Humanities (Ms. Jackson, Instructor)

So this week we got into the meat of our anchor text,1984. The students handled mature topics with grace and rigorous thought. We also discussed the value of tradition in society and what happens to reality when the truth is overwritten with lies. This week your student also got to use their creative side and create a thematic poster. Their poster had to reflect 1-2 themes they thought were present in the novel. Ask them what they put on theirs!!



Weekly Reports – Afternoon Classes, Week One

Here are some reports from the teachers of each of our afternoon classes for the last week in the Program. We have organized them by class:


Computer Tech (Barry Humphus, Instructor)

Student are very excited to get started doing 3D printing. We have some preliminary ground rules to set up, but as soon as that is complete, we should be good to go.


Debate  (Robert Markstrom, Instructor)

This week was spent establishing the context for debate. Area’s of emphasis include: Aristotle’s 3 modes of persuasion, 3 types of resolutions, 4 different debate formats, Affirmative goals in a debate, and exploring topic areas for future debates.


Musical & Musial Leads (Ms. Elayne Gabbert, Instructor)

The show has been cast and we have begun learning the music. There are 22 songs in the show and we have made it through all of them in the prologue to ACT I and scene 5 of ACT II.

Since we cast the show on Monday, we are working on learning all the music and fitting it with the dialogue. We also started sectional and individual instruction on solos and small ensembles.


Large Ensemble & Musically Gifted (Mr. Rod Lauderdale, Instructor and Director)

Ensemble: We have begun rehearsing and discovering our sound with the different players and instruments available to us this summer. It should be an exciting time for us all this summer

Musically Gifted: We have begun our studies of Music Theory as well as Music History. Also the students are already beginning the necessary work of practicing their musical skills throughout the summer.


Conflict and Diplomacy (Ms. Jessica Markstrom, Instructor)

This week we covered basic paradigms of international relations including realism, liberalism, and constructivism. I placed a special focus on realist theories like balance of power and hegemonic stability as explanations of when to expect intrastate conflict or peace in a system. I used candy to explain basic issues of conflict, resource scarcity, and maximum utility. We also addressed how the international system and conflict has changed since WWII. The students read the first chapter of Thomas Schelling’s “Arms and Influence,” which examines what coercive diplomacy is, its role in conflict in the past, and how it operates in a post-nuclear age. They also read a piece by Jack Levy from “Leashing the Dogs of War” that provided systemic and regional explanations for interstate and intrastate conflict as well as reinforcing realist theories of conflict. The last reading came from Daniel Drezner and it applied paradigms of international relations to a hypothetical zombie scourge. The students enjoyed debating which approach they would employ to combat a zombie plague. We ended the week with the students receiving their assigned countries for the State Development project and they began discussing alliances and trade deals.


Critical Thinking (Ms. Jessica Markstrom, Instructor) 

This week the students took a personality test that determined their animal personality (you can access this test at This test is fun for the students and allows me to sort them into groups based on their traits (shy, leader, etc.). We played numerous games in the course. Zero sum tactical games (Twixt, Score 4, Hippos and Crocs), a tactical game involving vectors (Pirateer), a new variant on chess (Tile Chess), spatial games (Blokus and Tsuro), resource games (Pandemic Contagion), and odds games (Get Bit).

Weekly Reports – Sciences, Week One

Here are some reports from the teachers of each of our Science classes for last week in the Program. We have organized them by class:


Freshman Science & Sophomore Science (Ms. Keesha Jennings, Instructor)

Freshmen: In freshmen Science we will have different design challenges to learn more about the Scientific Method. This week we will learn about cylindrical strength by using paper to support weight from different items, forces, such as aerodynamics, to create paper rockets, and how external structures of animals can give us insight on how to build tools to retrieve items from hard-to-reach places.

Sophomore: Chemistry is the study of matter and energy. It is everywhere around us – in the products we clean our homes with, plastic water bottles, and even bags from the grocery store. Each week will the students will conduct experiments to improve their understanding of atoms and the way molecules react with one another as well as improve their skills and knowledge of laboratory equipment. This week we reviewed laboratory safety, discussed how nucleation sites assist the physical separation of solid, liquid, and gas, and learned how temperature can affect solubility and saturation.


Senior Science (Dr. Linda Brannon, Instructor)

During the session, seniors complete courses in science, composition, and humanities and choose one of these areas in which they complete a project. Thus, Science III is oriented around moving students from students to researchers. During the first week of the session, we focused initially on the choice of the senior project. Students who choose a science project must go through all of the steps in the scientific method, which begins with choosing a topic. Several students had ideas about a science project on the first day, all of which were (or could become) feasible. Students who choose a project in humanities of composition participate in a class study in which they collect data and work as a group on a presentation, so all students have a science experience but not the same science experience.


Grad Psychology (Dr. Linda Brannon, Instructor)

This session’s topic in psychology is “Perceptual, Cognitive, and Social Influences on Behavioral Outcomes,” with the subtitle “The Psychology of Bad Decisions and Stupid Behavior.” People often associate psychology with abnormal behavior that is irrational, but people with no mental disorders also exhibit poor judgment and bad decisions. My plan is to examine these various psychological processes that lead people to weird beliefs and unwise behavior. To prompt student involvement, each student will receive several topics related to perception, cognition, memory, or social influences to define and be prepared to discuss. Each topic of influence begins with at least one Crash Course video on the topic to which I will add PowerPoints and summary outlines.

Weekly Reports – Composition, Week One

Here are some reports from the teachers of each of our Composition classes for the last week in the Program. We have organized them by class:

Freshman Composition (Ms. Cecil Tate, Instructor)

We had a successful week in Composition 1. The students wrote a letter introducing themselves to me after they read my letter to them. Of course, not many people write friendly letters now, myself included, but the letters give me a chance to evaluate organization, mechanics, and sentence structure without making the assignment seem like a test. I also get to know them a little bit better. The assignment that caused some consternation was drawing a self-portrait! Some of the results are hilarious! Next, they used the poem ” If I Ruled the World” as a example for their own poem, but they used their own thoughts and ideas. These poems revealed that these students are very compassionate and kind. They read “Harrison Bergeron” aloud taking turns if they wished to read and discussed the story in class. We’ll use this story and the poem to create a utopian or dystopian short story next week.


Composition III (Ms. Sarah Harshbarger, Instructor)

This week, we began our unit on short fiction. The students read short stories and flash fiction by Tobias Wolff, Flannery O’Connor, George Saunders, and ZZ Packer. They did writing exercises individually and as a group to build skills that will help them write their own flash fiction stories, which will be due in the second week. We discussed genre conventions and point of view, as well as strategies for reading short fiction effectively.


English 001 (Ms. Sarah Harshbarger, Instructor)

This week, we started our unit on fiction and flash fiction. We read stories by Tobias Wolff, John Cheever, George Saunders, ZZ Packer, Hugh Behm-Steinberg, and more. The students were assigned a flash fiction piece of 500-1000 words due at the end of the second week. We did individual and group exercises to build skills that will be useful in writing the story. We discussed how to build tension through character development, how writers use elements of surrealism to explore theme, and how to read short stories effectively.



Weekly Reports – Humanities, Week One

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

Freshmen Humanities (Ms. Kristen Harrell, Instructor)

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 and Mycenae. 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. 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.



Weekly Reports – Afternoon Classes, Week Six

Here are some reports from the teachers of each of our afternoon classes for the last week in the Program. We have organized them by class:

Choir (Ms. Colette Tanner, Instructor)

We are working to perfect and memorize our performance repertoire. We will also be working on Final “Bridge” Projects. The students will “BRIDGE THE GAP” between academics and the arts by researching a song or composer and representing the song/composer in a creative way. (i.e. poetry, visual arts, film, etc)

We are putting the finishing touches on our concert repertoire. Also, our “BRIDGE PROJECTS” are due on Friday. This is a wonderful group of students that have made remarkable strides over these last 6 weeks. We will still have rehearsals next week. I hope to see you all at the CHOIR CONCERT on Saturday, July 21.



Debate (Ms. Jessica Markstrom, Instructor)

We prepared for debates last Friday. We had the first set of debates today, Thursday. There was a value debate regarding whether cats are better than dogs and a policy debate regarding the cell phone policy at the GPGC.

This week students engaged in debates. Debates followed policy, value, and fact formats. Several returning students showed exceptional growth. All students improved upon their previous debates.


Critical Thinking (Mr. Robert Markstrom, Instructor)

The short week did not allow for activities beyond games. On Friday students chose which games they would like to play out of an assortment of games. Games like Contagion and Nightmare Chess were available. On Thursday students prepared for the game tournament next week.

This week was a game tournament. The games included in the tournament were available on most game days this summer. Games in the tournament: Blokus, Hippos and Crocs, Q-Bitz, Score 4, Set, Speed Chess, and Twixt. Each game involves strategy and follows a zero sum format except set and Q-Bitz. Set and Q-Bitz deal with pattern recognition under a time constraint.

Weekly Reports – Composition, Week Six

Here are some reports from the teachers of each of our Composition classes for the last week in the Program. We have organized them by class:

Freshman Composition (Ms. Cecil Tate, Instructor)

During the last week of Composition I, the students wrote a constructed response based on a question from the short story “Harrison Bergeron.” They volunteered to read their responses to their classmates. After reading a short opinion piece, they began pre-writing which helped them prepare to compose a persuasive essay. On Wednesday the students began writing the actual persuasive essay. Thursday most students volunteered to read and we discussed the various opinions. We “cubed” a paper clip. Cubing is a six step writing strategy. One of the steps is arguing for or against the cubed object, and as you can imagine, everyone participated vociferously! On Friday the students, participated in logic games, and quiz bowl questions from their courses at GPGC.


Senior Composition and Grad Composition (Brett Hanley, Instructor)

English 002: The class read and discussed “Stone Animals” by Kelly Link.  We also discussed magical realism and the conventions of science fiction, fantasy, and horror writing. We began to watch excerpts of films that follow these conventions and works of fiction that employ elements of fantasy, the unreal, and the surreal. The grads also worked in groups to answer analysis questions regarding “Stone Animals” and the excerpts of The Shining we watched. The grads turned in their final packets of poetry or short fiction.

Composition III:  We read and discussed the craft essay, “The Energy of Revision” by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux and discussed advanced strategies for revising creative work. The seniors also completed an in-class writing assignment analyzing a work of literature or film we’ve previously discussed in class.


Weekly Reports – Science, Week Six

Here are some reports from the teachers of each of our Science classes for last week in the Program. We have organized them by class:


Senior Science (Dr. Linda Brannon, Instructor)

This week is the one during which we prepare for presentation of projects on Friday. Ideally, all students would be finished collecting data and would have a good rough draft of their final paper. However, some students working on their own projects had not completed data collection, which created a time problem. I also drilled students doing science studies repeatedly to help them become very clear about the design of their study and what their variables are. We also discussed their hypotheses and how analyzing their data would allow them to confirm or fail to confirm those hypotheses. Students worked on creating a PowerPoint for their presentations and a final paper. I went to study hall Monday through Thursday to provide assistance to students working on science, both individual projects and the group working on presenting the class study. Most students had a completed PowerPoint and were able to present their studies on Friday. Four of six students who chose science projects had not submitted a satisfactory paper so must spend Week 7 on this task if they are to graduate.


Grad Psychology (Dr. Linda Brannon, Instructor)

Both the quality of students’ class participation and final papers concerned me, so I decided to provide another assessment as a way to determine students’ comprehension of important concepts. That assessment was an open-book/note exam, which I announced on Monday and students took on Thursday. They also turned in their final papers on Thursday (two of eight did so; others must work on these papers during Week 7). The topics that we discussed were talk-based/cognitive therapies, including client-centered therapy, rational-emotive therapy, and also several behavior modification approaches. As students have experienced a token economy, we talked about that version of behavior modification more extensively than systematic desensitization, aversion therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

One of the best parts of the program

for me was, for once, it allowed me to be one of the "normal" kids, instead of the "brainiac" nerd. I cherish that gift.

– George A., Alumnus