In the cool of a summer morning, the setting is almost idyllic. Therissa Libby of Cecil County's Bohemia Manor High School climbs out onto a tree limb stretching out over the Wye River and, pencil and clipboard in hand, turns her attention to the task of writing short stories.
Nearby, Mike Rutter of North Carroll High School in Carroll County, is out on a pier, his toes dangling in the current, trying his hand at science fiction while Steve Spitzer of Montgomery County's Winston Churchill High School is sitting in the shade of an oak, writing poetry.
All three are participants in the first of four two-week summer sessions on creative writing for high school and junior high school students run by the Maryland State Department of Education here at the Wye Institute.
"We're trying to give them some style, some appropriate use of words, some correctness," says Davidson Watts, director of the Wye program.
The sessions at Wye Institute are aimed specifically at gifted and talented students and they are part of a score of similar summer programs for the gifted and talented put together by the Maryland Department of Education at eight separate locations throughout the state this year.
They reflect a growing recognition nationally of the gifted and talented as the education field's newest special interest group, organizing to apply pressure for a larger slice of the education pie.
"We're feeling the pressure from the parents," says Isabelle Rucker, who directs a summer program for gifted students for the Virginia State Department of Education.
"They've seen money spent for the disadvantaged, the learning disabled, the handicapped, the children who don't speak English. They haven't seen much money spent on the gifted students and they are beginning to ask about it."
"The gifted kids do not have everything going for them just because they are gifted," says James Fisher, who directs the gifted programs for the Maryland State Department of Education.
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] cent of the kids who drop out of school are intellectually gifted. The schools are not taking care of them. It's a tremendous waste. They need special attention just like any other special group."
At the national level, only within the last two years his federal money been available to support programs for gifted children and even so, the amount available is only $2.5 million a year.
"At that rate, it's spread pretty thin," says Jane Case Williams, deputy director of the U.S. Office at Education's Office for the Gifted.
Nevertheless, she added, the level of emphasis on programs for the gifted now is about the same as it was on programs for the learning disabled and handicapped 10 years ago.
"Now, those programs are of high national priority," she said. "We need to have education in this country that provides for the differentiated needs of children of high potential. You don't really know how far a person can go, if you don't provide the specialized education that meets their needs."
Of the nation's approximately 2 million intellectually gifted children - 10 of 130 or above - only about 160,000 are enrolled in programs for the gifted, but that's still double the level of five years ago.
In the Washington area, the city's schools are in the process of getting together a comprehensive plan for gifted and talented children and are already operating such isolated projects as the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts at the old Wetern High School and a science and mathematics program for gifted students at Ballou High School.
In Virginia and Maryland, local school systems run a variety of programs for gifted and talented children while the state boards of education are pushing summertime efforts.
In Virginia this summer 420 students from public and private high schools across the state are enrolled in one of three sessions of the Government's School for the Gifted at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Mary Baldwin College in Staunton or Randolph Macon College in Lynchburg.
The entire cost of $500 per student for the four-week sessions is underwritten by the state and students pay only transportation and furnish whatever spending money they need.
Thus, at Mary Baldwin, Bobby Keane - a high school senior from Franklin - is spending his summer mornings in a computer laboratory, his afternoons in a chemistry laboratory.
"I figure this is a good opportunity to get a start on things I'm going to be getting in college," Keane said. "They don't have computers at Franklin High School, so I'm getting a chance to learn a little about how the computer works. The main thing we're doing is learning how to program it in the basic language."
Among Keane's efforts are such tasks as designing a program for the computer to measure the distance a basketball will bounce in 30 bounces when dropped from a height of six feet. On the assumption that the ball would always bounce back a distance reduced by one-third each time, the computer came up with an answer of 207.35 feet.
From Woodbridge High School in Prince William County, Lynda Wayne is spending her time at Mary Washington studying computer mathematics and psychology and putting out a school newspaper.
"Every minute is filled up here and that's the truth," Wayne said. "You don't even think about things like taking a nap because there's no time and there's so many things you'd rather be doing than sleeping."
In Maryland, the summer programs for the gifted and talented range from the classes in creative writing at Wye Institute to studies in environmental sciences to a program for performing and visual arts at St. Joseph's College in Emmittsburg to seminars for the intellectually gifted at St. Mary's College in St. Mary's City.
"This has been a tremendous experience for me, I have written more and better here than I have in the past two years," said Mike Hutter who's studying creative writing at Wye Institute.
Typically, the Wye program calls for students to write on their own, then have their work evaluated and discussed by teachers and fellow students. "It's stimulating," said Rutter. "There are people here I can relate to - I have a hard time relating to the people in Carroll County."
At St. Joseph's College in the shadow of the Catoctin Mountains 600 high school and junior high school students will attend four two-week sessions, devoting their time almost exclusively to such activities as madrigal singing, painting drawing, acting or playing musical instruments.
Like the Wye program, each student pays $100 for the two weeks, with the state providing a $170 subsidy.
"Students who are very talented, rarely get a chance to be with other students who are equally talented," said Jay Corder, who directs the St. Joseph's College program. "When they do get a chance like that, it heightens their interest tremendously."
Sitting in the shade of a tree in the afternoon breeze while playing a bass trombone, Pete LaCount of Columbia agreed with that assessment.
"You learn a lot from sitting next to someone who's better than you are. You always want to improve yourself," he said.