Broward elementaries make the move to chess
By Scott Travis, Sun Sentinel
8:23 p.m. EDT, May 13, 2014
Broward schools are getting on board with a new strategy to improve student achievement – chess.
The school district plans this fall to add chess to the second and third grade curriculum at most elementary schools after a successful pilot program this year at three Sunrise schools.
Studies show chess develops critical thinking, logic, math, and science skills, officials say, and at least 30 countries require the game be taught in school. The United States leaves the decision up to local school districts, and a few have experimented with it, including some in New York and Texas.
“Broward County is about to be the front-runner in doing this,” said Marc Strauss, a district administrator. “No one has done it as largely as we’re talking about.”
The skills students use in chess move also can be used to narrow down multiple choice questions, officials say. Students have learned vocabulary words and history lessons involving the 1,500-year-old game.
Chess has given students of different backgrounds a chance to get to know each other, and it’s improved their self-esteem, said Angela Fulton, principal at Discovery Elementary.
“They think of chess as a smart person’s game, and I don’t know any kid who doesn’t want to be smart,” Fulton said.
“I love chess. It brings me closer to my daddy,” said Lauren Amitirigala, 8, of Tamarac. “It improves my mood and inspires me to try harder in school.”
Her classmate at Discovery, Jaterrius Walker, 8, of Sunrise, said chess “feeds my brain and makes me smarter.”
The idea for a chess curriculum came from Sunrise Mayor Michael Ryan in 2008 when he and a teacher at Sawgrass Elementary decided gauge interest in an after-school chess club. The response was overwhelming.
After Ryan became mayor, the city started hosting open play events and tournaments on Saturdays. He talked with Superintendent Robert Runcie last year about making chess part of the school day. It began as a pilot this year at Discovery, Banyan and Village elementaries.
Earlier this year, district officials asked elementary school principals throughout in the district if they wanted the curriculum, and 90 percent said yes. First Move has agreed to pay 75 percent of first year costs, with the district spending $292,000.
Teacher Maria Dodd said she’s impressed that in a culture dominated by fast-paced, high graphic video games, chess has captured so much interest.
“Their minds are providing all the stimulation,” she said.