Chess from age 2!
The 1st annual congress of Pedagogy and the Social Applications of Chess in Buitrago (about 45 minute from Madrid) was opened with a fascinating lecture on the topic “The Intelligence and Chess” by the well-known philosopher and educator Jose Antonio Marina.
The five-day long congress is been organized by the Colgios Gredos San Diego in partnership with the Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia and is directed by Leontxo Garcia and Jose Albert.
I presented on two topics yesterday and today: Nurture or Nature and on the Life Applications of Chess.
There were already numerous wonderful presentations, but honestly, I was most fascinated to learn that two of the presenters teach chess in kindergarten to little ones, between the ages 2 to 5! And no, they are not neighbors. They are also not in the same school, city, or country!
It reminded me about my visit to Caracas, Venezuela, last year, where are had my youngest opponent ever in a simul, a 3-year old girl name Esmeralda Blanco. She knew how to make legal moves.
I witnessed Adriana Salazar of Bogota, Columbia (a 6-time Olympian herself) in action this evening to demonstrate her secret methods in a workshop. She showed how to grab the attention of the youngest audiences, and teach chess at the same time.
Adriana started by introducing the chess board (made by simply putting some white paper on the dark floor), in an attractive way for kids, as she calls it the “world of chocolate and vanilla”. She even has a CD with chess themed songs “Canta y juega ajedrez en el mundo de chocolate y vanilla.”
She teaches chess for about 30 years now – her experience is obvious, and her passion for chess and teaching is contagious. You can read more (in Spanish) about her work here: http://www.ajedrezenelaula.com.
I also learned that in in Uruguay, about an hour outside of Montevideo, in the coastal city of Lagomar, they already use chess for 25 years in one kindergarten as an enrichment program with kids ages 2-5!
I spoke to Esteban Jaurequizar, who has been their chess instructor for the past seven years. The Centro Educativo Vaz Ferreira has around 200 pre-K students, and all of them learn chess weekly. I asked him what is the secret to maintain the interest of kids as young as 2 or 3 years old?
He said that the key is to establish a close and warm relationship with the students and keep interacting constantly. The classes always have to be fun, exciting, and with high energy. Young children like to live in a “fantasy world”.
Therefore, it is important to tell stories, use vocabulary that they are familiar with. He admitted that he can never let the enthusiasm drop for a minute, and it requires a lot of energy. Esteban as well as Adriana both said that it is extremely important to introduce new elements very slowly, one by one, in a fun way (often with stories and songs and physical demonstration) and build on them systematically.