Media Contact: Maria Blackburn 
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BALTIMORE, MAY 1, 2014—Behind the doors of CTY’s new research lab are the kinds of fun objects most kids can’t wait to play with. From Legos, tangram puzzles and maze games to Barbie dolls and daring video games complete with 3D virtual reality headsets, it’s got it all. 

The 1,350-square-foot lab, which opened at CTY’s Baltimore headquarters this week, is more than just a place to play. It’s here that cognitive scientists focused on areas including spatial cognition, learning and memory, individual differences, and high academic achievers will conduct studies with preK-12 students designed to advance our understanding of how gifted students learn and contribute to our knowledge about how all students learn.

This is CTY’s first research lab and it builds upon the pioneering research of Dr. Julian Stanley, the Johns Hopkins psychologist whose interest in studying how academically advanced middle school students learn led to the founding of the Center in 1979.

“Having this lab at CTY helps others see that part of the role of CTY is to help inform the broader community about academically advanced students and their talents,” says Dr. Amy Shelton, CTY’s director of research and a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Education who has been pursuing spatial cognition research for more than 20 years and directs the lab at CTY. The CTY Research Lab is staffed by Dr. Shelton, two postdoctoral fellows, a handful of graduate and undergraduate researchers, and a lab coordinator.

Elaine Tuttle Hansen, executive director of CTY, says the new CTY Research Lab is important because it will help provide much needed insight into which tools and strategies will identify the potential for exceptional achievement and which interventions will fully develop talent in specific domains. “We need trusted programs like the ones CTY has been providing for decades; we need passionate advocacy for such programs and the needs of the students they serve. And to ensure and evaluate the quality of our interventions and make the necessary case for broad implementation, we also need much more research on all aspects of learning,” she says.

One of the questions at the core of Dr. Shelton’s research is what are the fundamental cognitive tools that learners bring to their learning environments. “Academically talented students likely have an enhanced set of fundamental learning tools but we don’t really understand it,” Dr. Shelton says. By studying these learning tools, which include spatial skills, and the importance they have among different kinds of learners, she hopes it will improve the way CTY identifies, serves, and develops the talents of bright students.

“This is an exciting time to be thinking about what individual learners bring to the table.”

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About The Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY)

A global leader in gifted education since 1979, CTY is focused on identifying academic talent in exceptional K-12 students and supporting their growth with summer and online courses, family programs, services, and resources specifically designed to meet their needs.  Education Week called CTY “one of a set of remarkable nonpublic institutions dedicated to the discovery and nurture of the most talented young people for the highest levels of accomplishment.”