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GSSM Engages Community with First-Ever Open House

March 3, 2017

For the first time in its nearly 30-year history, the Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics (GSSM) opened its doors to the local community for Inside GSSM, a day of imagination, inspiration and innovation.

Inside GSSM, an interactive open house hosted by GSSM students, faculty and staff, served as an opportunity for members of the Darlington County community to experience life and learning at the one-of-a-kind School. 

But Inside GSSM reached further than just the Pee Dee region.   

In total, the event drew more than 300 people from 17 counties to the Governor’s School to experience the academic culture at GSSM and enjoy a day of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) activities. Some traveled from as far away as Beaufort, Jasper, and Greenville counties, and even as far away as North Carolina.

Families came to spend the day learning together with their children, but they also got a taste of what it means to be a part of the Governor’s School’s community.

“I enjoyed learning alongside my daughter,” said Darlington County Resident Laci Atkinson after attending Inside GSSM. “There is nothing quite like that spark they get in their eyes when they understand a new concept.”

David Nutt, principal at McBee Elementary School, brought his daughter along to Inside GSSM and was impressed to see so many students – including his daughter – excited about learning.

“I hope local schools really begin to utilize this wonderful resource that is the Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics,” he said. 

Attendees were particularly interested in the 12 GSSM student-led exhibits located in the gym, including watching the 3-D printer that was continuously printing earbud holders, interacting with vertebrate animals, playing with mBots and cheering on the GSSM robotics club as they performed. All these took place while families were treated to musical performances by the Soundwaves student band and the string ensemble group. 


Other favorite activities in the school’s academic wing and art studio included creating pottery, dissecting cow eyes, designing and printing 3D objects, exploring the world map, building electric circuits, and learning about cryptography. 

“Some families never made it to the booths and performances in the gym because there were 30 awesome interactive activities in our academic center. Families wanted to soak in all these activities,” Randy La Cross, vice president for Outreach & Research at GSSM.

In total, there were over 40 exhibits and activities, each developed and delivered by GSSM instructors, students, and staff.

“It was wonderful seeing hundreds of children having fun while participating in activities and experiments together with their parents,” said Dr. Hector Flores, president of GSSM. “It warms my heart about the future of the STEM workforce in South Carolina and beyond.”

The event was also an opportunity for GSSM residential students to connect with the local Hartsville community.

“The efforts of many persons brought Dr. Flores' Inside GSSM vision to life, but without the dedication and hard work of our GSSM students, the day would not have been a success,” said Sonja Taylor, Diversity Recruitment Manager at GSSM. “It was heartwarming to watch so many of our students devote their Saturday in service to the community.” 

Senior Sam Czwalina spent his day working in the gym and showing off vertebrate animals alongside Dr. Jeff Janovetz, biology instructor at GSSM.

“It was exciting and inspiring to see how many people in the community came to learn more about these wonderful animals,” said Czwalina. “I loved how even with animals like snakes, everyone was able to overcome fears they might have had to hold them and learn more about these creatures.”

Although Senior Maegan Albert didn’t have much time to stop and converse with the guests during her shift as crepe-maker at the French Club’s booth, she was amazed at the amount of teamwork she saw from her classmates.

“It was awesome seeing everyone so happy to work together, directing families around and having a great time,” she said.

Because of the success of the event, GSSM will be hosting Inside GSSM again in 2018 – with hopes that this will become the start of a long-lived tradition.

“These families walked away from GSSM with a sense of our commitment to academic excellence and sharing exemplary STEM educational experiences with the local community and the state,” said La Cross. 

To learn more about Inside GSSM, visit

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