Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chess Wins at School; Pinedale Students Drawn to Game

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chess Wins at School; Pinedale Students Drawn to Game

Article excerpt

Byline: Kandace Lankford, River City News correspondent

Baseball, ballet and other physical activities have long been popular pastimes for children, but some students at Pinedale Elementary School are participating in a sport of a different kind.

The two-player game takes place in an arena containing 64 squares, with each player having an army of 16 pieces. Only one player will win, but in this ancient game, no one really loses. Every defeat is an education, a lesson learned that will advance the skill level of the player.

Chess is the game played by the Green Pawns of Pinedale, a group of about 30 students who meet two afternoons a week in the school cafeteria to learn new strategies and hone their playing skills. Open to second- through fifth-graders, the chess club was started at the beginning of the school year by Vice Principal Larry Thompson, an avid chess player. The program is the beginning of a coordinated effort with the Jacksonville Chess Club to spur interest in chess in area schools.

"I wanted to do something that would be beneficial as well as fun for the students," Thompson said. "The higher-order thinking skills in chess are directly related to improved performance in the classroom."

The meetings are led by Scott Pfeiffer, scholastic director of the Jacksonville Chess Club, who is paid for his biweekly instruction through a grant from Paxon Full Service Schools Program.

"Chess is a multicultural game that has been over 1,500 years in the making," Pfeiffer said. "It's a hobby that spans all age ranges, and it has been shown to improve academic performance."

There are a number of studies documented by the U.S. Chess Federation that support the assertion that exposure to chess enhances memory, boosts spatial and numerical skill, increases problem-solving capabilities and strengthens logical thinking.

At a recent meeting, two oversized chess boards with green and white squares hung on the cafeteria wall while Pfeiffer displayed the lesson for the day by moving large cardboard chess pieces from one plastic-sleeved square to another. By the end of the lesson, eager students were prepared to put into practice what they had just learned.

"It took me a long time to learn to play, but it is fun," said Baron Vandermaas, a third-grader at the school. "You have to use your brain the whole time, you have to really think about what you're doing. I learned about good sportsmanship, too; we always shake hands before we play a game. …

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