More than 20 students were seated and deep in thought in the Flat Rock Elementary School media center Monday afternoon.
They were not testing nor were they in trouble. They are members of the school’s chess club and they were using their monthly meeting as a time to showcase what they do to other educators.
Last summer, Melissa Sanders, the school’s academically and intellectually gifted teacher, wanted to come up with an activity to challenge students. Drawing inspiration from her own son, who is in middle school, she started a chess club.
The students met once a week starting in July for two hours at a time. She used a SmartBoard to show them each piece in chess as well as what types of moves it could make. Then, she allowed students to come up to the board and try their hand at a match.
Once school started, the interest continued and the Flat Rock Chess Club was born. The club meets once a month from 2:45 to 4 p.m. and has around 22 regular participants.
“It was evident to me early on that the students I serve at Flat Rock were craving something more and I wanted to get them involved in a fun and challenging activity that would build on their intellectual curiosity and also help them to become life-long learners,” said Sanders.
“I enjoy chess because checkers is easy. Chess challenges me and that is why I like it,” said Grant Whittington, third grader.
“I think chess is a brilliant game. You really have to think hard. I find new skills every time I play,” said Breanna Goins, fifth grader.
Sanders has found a way to incorporate chess into the standard course of study as well with the help of Championship Chess. Chess can teach students skills that relate to language arts, math, social studies and 21st century skills. Students learn about cause and effect and the value of good communication and comprehension, all skills relating to language arts.
In math, students use an algebraic grid in the form of the chess board and algebraic notations to formulate and answer questions. They are asked to solve problems in order to make moves and analyze patterns to read the opposing player.
“The game of chess is a wonderful learning tool to help engage students in critical thinking and problem solving,” said Sanders. “Chess forces the students to face immediate consequences in response to their actions. They learn to strategically plan their moves in a way that will protect themselves but also will enable them to win or succeed in the game.”
Playing chess provides a mental challenge for students and helps them maintain focus.
“Chess means a lot to me. I like the way it causes you to think ahead. I also like how it challenges your brain,” said Shelby Taylor, fifth grader.
“I like chess club because it helps you focus. Chess club also helps you mentally. It is a fun way to exercise your brain,” said Grace Stanley, fifth grader.
“Chess club is very helpful in many ways. Chess is a game of thinking and strategy. Chess club helps with thinking through things and it helps with planning moves. Chess club makes it easy and fun to learn how to play chess,” said Aashton Day, fifth grader.