Teacher: Students benefit from chess club

Teacher: Students benefit from chess club

MONTICELLO — When originally asked to help lead an elementary school chess club, Monticello resource teacher Mindy Donahue said no.

But when her 10-year-old son Riley seconded the idea, she said "I'm in." She hasn't regretted it, and has seen benefits ranging from increased critical thinking skills to more simple common courtesy among the 40 fourth- and fifth-graders who take part in the weekly lunch-hour activity.

"It helps with their strategic thinking and I also think it's great for social skills, because at the end of the game they have to shake hands, give eye contact, say 'good game' to each other before they start a new game," said Donahue.

"I was a little hesitant at first, but they can sweet talk me into anything, these fifth-graders," she chuckled.

The idea was the brainchild of fifth-grader Evan Brown, who has been playing chess with his cousins for about five years.

"I just think it's a fun strategy game. It passes a lot of time, and it's good strategy," said Brown, who likes to use knights is his signature weapon during grade school matches.

Boards and timers were already in storage from high school chess clubs of days gone by, so there was very little startup cost. But Donahue admits she was a novice player at best when chess club began last September, so she drafted her father Craig Webb and Evan's mother Kathy to help out.

The group began a single-elimination practice tournament on Feb. 24, which should finish up in about three weeks. At this point, participants know both the written and unwritten rules of chess, which impressed the parents who came to observe.

Those eliminated from the current tournament don't have to sit idle; they continue to practice on the side.

"We are having so much fun," Donahue said.

As for Evan Brown, he would also like to get a chess club formed at the middle school when he starts attending there this fall, as well as another activity.

"I would like to ask if we can do chess club, and maybe talk to a science teacher about Lego robotics," Evan said.

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