Children's Chess - One great story, Two great videos
Normally sedate, the game of chess takes on a different feel at an Oak Park school playground, where teams of kids holler out moves and play by jumping spaces on a painted grid.
Fourth- and fifth-graders recently squared off for their first game of what Marvin Childress, a fifth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, calls human chess. Childress used the life-size version as a way to get more students, especially girls, interested in the game.
Last year, the school's 50-member chess club included about 15 girls. Childress, who is the club's coach, believes making chess an active, social occasion will make it more accessible.
"This is an opportunity to take a game that's built for two people and open it up to 32 people instantly," Childress said. "I just think that, that's cool, that the sheer concept of it is pretty neat."
Fourth-grader Allyson Rumoro was among spectators speaking or yelling suggestions for moves to two more seasoned players who directed classmates on a newly painted blue-and-yellow grid during an introductory game last week.
"I think it will be more fun to play," said the 9-year-old, who was a member of the club last year and plans to join again this year.
Childress came up with the idea in the spring.
With the help of a local Girl Scouts troop and a Parent Teacher Association, he was able to get the $750 needed for paint, labor, and blue and yellow vests marked with the names of chess pieces. A special-education teacher mapped it out and an art teacher led a small crew who painted the chess board, which includes images of the school's lion mascot. Administrators and teachers said the board was a popular spot the first week of school.
"There's a lot of kids out there playing, and a lot of them are girls," said Jennifer Zarosl, a substitute teacher who helped complete the board.
Gabriel Sparkes, 9, a co-captain of the chess club, said he struggled to concentrate while directing a team but learned from students suggesting different moves.
"They were teaching me to play better," he said.
If the program hooks more students, they'll have to submit to the rigor Childress imposes on players. He said he sometimes removes key pieces from his best players' arsenals to teach them not to overvalue the pieces.
Childress said chess teaches important skills, including organizing, planning, decision-making and overcoming adversity.
"Chess is definitely a metaphor for life," he said. "Sometimes in life, you just have to be strategic."
Some of the club members are selected to compete with other Oak Park schools in the spring. Last year, his team finished fifth out of seven teams.
"My players don't always win, but they know how to lose with pride," he said. (firstname.lastname@example.org/Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC)
Here's another truly fun chess video for children