Virtual CTY courses foster teamwork, social connections

New CTY offerings aim to give kids the camaraderie they are missing while school and extracurricular activities are put on hold during COVID-19

A boy plays chess outdoors

Image caption: CTY student Shantanu Jha, 10, of Waycross, Georgia, has taken several online CTY courses, including Intermediate Chess. He said his virtual courses have allowed him to improve his skills while connecting with other students.

Credit: Courtesy of the Jha family

Surveys show that kids are missing the social connections they normally make through in-person school, sports, camps, and other activities that have been put on hold due to COVID-19. The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth is aiming to fill this void through a slate of new online options.

The center is continuing to expand its programming to serve academically advanced students in new and engaging ways during the pandemic and beyond. Families can choose from new virtual courses and clubs that allow kids to be playful, curious, and social through lively activities, discussions, and collaboration.

"Our clubs offer a safe space for students to connect socially and follow their academic passions at the same time."
Virginia Roach
Executive director, Center for Talented Youth

In CTY's new Problem-Based courses, students work in small teams to develop multi-faceted solutions to complex problems like global warming and social injustice. Two courses launched in January, and more will be offered to students in grades 7-12 over two sessions this summer. Upcoming courses include In Case of Emergency: Healthcare Challenges in the 21st Century and Beyond; Rethinking Economic and Social Justice in the Time of COVID-19; and Colonizing Space: How to Build an Extraterrestrial City.

CTY's Live Interactive Virtual Explorations courses for students are back again this spring and summer to help students in grades 2-12 explore topics like backyard habitats, disease modeling, mathematical proofs, and the art of mystery writing in small, dynamic classes that blend instructor-led discussions, projects, and activities with some independent learning. CTY debuted the LIVE format last summer to meet the surge in demand for interactive, real-time, virtual classes that came when schools suddenly closed due to COVID-19, and they have remained popular with families throughout this school year.

"Our students love the LIVE courses," said Virginia Roach, CTY's executive director. "Many of these courses integrate the home environment into instruction through hands-on projects."

CTY also offers more than 200 online courses in mostly asynchronous formats guided by expert instructors who specialize in teaching advanced concepts to bright students.

A girl works at a computer desk in her home

Image caption: CTY student Sofia Rahman, 14, has taken several CTY online courses with CTY, including Honors Pre-Calculus, Crafting the Essay, and Arabic. “I really enjoy exploring the diversity and quality of classes that CTY has to offer,” she said.

Image credit: Courtesy of the Rahman family

Students who participate in a CTY course this summer can also sign up for supervised social activities. These new virtual "brain breaks" include ice breakers, games, and scavenger hunts, and themed discussion groups, and are offered at a variety of times so students can participate when it fits their schedule.

CTY's new virtual clubs are also giving kids the chance to share their enthusiasm for learning and connect over topics they love in a structured, yet casual setting. Math, chess, and world languages clubs are currently under way, with more coming this summer.

"Our clubs offer a safe space for students to connect socially and follow their academic passions at the same time," Roach said. "Together with our LIVE and Problem-Based courses, students have lots of opportunities to make new friends from across the country and around the world who share their interests."

Summer Session 1 of CTY's Problem-Based courses will run June 21-July 16, and the registration deadline is May 18. Session 2 will run July 19-Aug. 13; registration is open now and closes June 8. CTY LIVE Summer session 1 will run from June 28-July 16, and registration is now open with a deadline of May 18. Summer session 2 will run from July 19-Aug. 6; registration closes June 8.

Families who register for a summer CTY LIVE or Problem-Based course by March 9 will receive a tuition discount when they use the code EARLYBIRD21 with their program application.