Male chess techers sought for all-boy fifth grade class

Published 3:46 pm Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This all-boy class was created by Mrs. Kinlaw, the principal, and fifth grade teacher Mrs. Smith after they learned that some academic and behavioral research shows that single gender education benefits students. Smith is enthusiastic about &dquo;her boys.&dquo;

The class&39;s interest in chess got started when Lynne Parsons&squo;s &uot;Little Brother&uot; (through Big Brothers Big Sisters), Russell, who is in Smith&squo;s class, taught himself to play chess through a computer program last year.

As Lynne investigated opportunities for Russell, she found out that the Hendersonville school system has a certified chess teacher for elementary school, Mr. Neal Harris, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools invest $250,000 towards teaching chess in their school system each year. Clearly, educators are recognizing chess as a powerful learning tool.

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Dr. Merilyn Heins said in her parenting column in the Arizona Star, &dquo;The relationship between chess and acquiring math, reading and critical-thinking skills is fairly strong. One study showed critical-thinking skills improved by 17 percent in students taking chess classes, compared with five percent for other classes.&dquo; She goes on to cite anecdotal evidence about chess improving concentration and focus for children.

Waiting for an opponent to make a move also teaches patience and courtesy, Parsons and Smith say. One reason playing chess can enhance learning is that the child realizes chess, unlike other games, depends mostly on chance, but demands skill and a plan to win. This makes winning so much fun that kids may want to translate skills and planning to other areas, such as schoolwork.

So Parsons and Smith are looking for men who can play chess and are willing to join a team of men to bring chess to Smith&squo;s fifth grade class. If enough chess instructors commit to this project, then each would only volunteer one day a month, on a Friday from 2 to 3 p.m.

Smith says she is ready. Harris from Hendersonville has agreed to meet with the team to get them started. Chess lovers and children supporters are asked to step up.

Parsons said they would also welcome anyone willing to donate a chess set or help pay for equipment. Please contact Lynne Parsons at 828-894-2217or 828-894-5505.