Friday, October 28, 2022

WMS Chess Club promotes critical thinking skills

By Ed Pierce

The game of chess has many benefits for young minds and educators at Windham Middle School are tapping into its resurging popularity to help students to tackle the academic challenges ahead.

Windham Middle School Chess Club members Bryce
Rogers, left, and Cooper Fournelle, both sixth graders,
play a game of chess during a recent club meeting after
school in the WMS Library. The club meets once a week
under the direction of school librarian Sienna Tinsley.
The WMS Chess Club is being led this year by School Librarian Sienna Tinsley and each Wednesday after school club members gather to play against each other and share their mutual appreciation for the strategic game.

Studies have shown that chess improves concentration and memory for students while enhancing reading and math skills. It also fosters the development of logic, critical thinking among students and encourages creativity.

“I think kids like chess because it can be played at many levels. It isn't hard to learn the basics, but there is so much depth that they don't get bored of it,” Tinsley said. “I also think they like the fact that it is such a popular game throughout the world and through the years. When they learn chess, they can play or talk about it with other people in their lives and most will already have some familiarity with it.”

Student participation is free and the number of student participants in the Chess Club varies by the week, but Tinsley said WMS has set as few barriers as possible to allowing kids to attend and enjoy this strategic activity.

“I hope kids take away an understanding of being a good sport and respecting their opponent by trying their best, focusing on the match, and responding graciously whether they win or lose,” she said. “I also hope that kids will come away with a feeling of belonging and being an important part of a team, as well as skills in critical thinking and planning ahead.”

To assist WMS students in mastering basic strategies and learning to play the game the right way, the school library has copies of the book "How a King Plays: 64 Chess Tips from a Kid Champion" by Oliver Boydell readily available and also has eight or nine chess sets on hand for games each week. Chess boards and game pieces are provided to participants and usually after a short club meeting for announcements or to answer any questions that may arise, students begin play between 2 and 2:45 p.m. every Wednesday.

WMS seventh grader Malcolm Morey says that he was introduced to chess a few years ago by his father and he wanted to be a member of the Chess Club at school this year for several reasons.

“I like the complexity of this game,” Morey said. “I like how you have to use your brain a lot and learn what to do when an opponent makes a certain move.”

He says he’s made some new friends through participation in the club and it’s also helped him to become a better sportsman playing many different opponents each week.

Typically, WMS Chess Club players try to squeeze in as many games as possible during the time the club meets in the school library and play against opponents of different skills levels.

“I believe that the more games that you play, the better you’ll get,” Morey said.

Twins Madison and Matthew Cole are eighth graders who are now in their second year as members of the WMS Chess Club.

As a girl, Madison said she takes pride in playing and winning against boys, but mostly enjoys being a Chess Club member because it helps her meet new people in other grades at the school.

“It’s really interesting getting to know some of the other students in the club, make new friends and I’d say winning chess games also helps boost my confidence,” she said.

Her brother Matthew said he has a small chess set at home but likes playing in the club after school because he’s able to match up against more experienced players.

“It has helped me to solve problems and being a member of the Chess Club has really helped improve my game,” he said.

Tinsley said since the start of school this fall, more students are learning about the WMS Chess Club, and she welcomes any student who wishes to participate.

“I appreciate families' willingness to come pick their students up, so they can stay late for chess club,” Tinsley said. “If we have community members with particular expertise and interest in chess, I would love to welcome guest speakers, so the kids can hear more perspectives than just mine.”

WMS Principal Drew Patin says having students participate in chess is an ideal activity.

“Chess club allows our students to have fun and grow social skills while developing strategy and patience,” he said. “Students learn to lose and win with grace. It also gets students off technology, so it is a win all around.” <

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