More than 50 Atlanta Public Schools chess club members from five elementary schools competed for the “travelling trophy” during a chess tournament yesterday hosted by M. Agnes Jones Elementary on Monday. Sponsored by the Kappa Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and the America’s Foundation for Chess First Move Program, levels II and III players K-5 from Fain, West Manor, Usher-Collier Heights, Humphries, and Jones elementary schools participated in the tournament. The First Move program employs chess as a learning tool to teach higher level thinking skills, advance math and reading skills, and to build self-esteem in students.
Students in grades K-5 played each other based on their player ranking and game skills. Humphries Elementary Principal Donald Clark witnessed his students win the tournament and take home the “travelling trophy.” The trophy will reside with the winning school each month, and at the end of the school year, will be moved permanently to the school with the test cumulative tournament record. The school is scheduled to host the next tournament in February 2010.
Aqueelah Sims, mother of Usher-Collier Heights Elementary third-grader Gyasi Sims, said her son has had an interest in chess for more than a year and started playing in August. “Chess gives him a sense of discipline and order,” said Sims. “It helps with strategy, decision making and problem solving, teaching my son to think first whereas human nature often tell us to react first.”
Louis Childers, First Move coordinator at Jones Elementary, said chess teaches students critical thinking skills, patience, courtesy. “At the end of the school year, most of our chess students will earn many academic awards,” he said. Jones students have been playing and participating in competitive chess for several years and have played in National Chess Federation-sanctioned chess tournaments.
The Jones Chess Club was originally sponsored by the Kappa Boule in 1997 and currently co-sponsors the program with the First Move Chess Program which is hosted at 20 APS elementary schools. This school year, the grade level of student players at Jones ranges from kindergarten to fourth grade. Last year’s team was comprised of primarily second-graders.
The Kappa Boule provides equipment, learning materials, software and instruction for students and teachers. This initiative was based on research which has proven a correlation between the ability to play tournament-level chess and the aptitude for mathematics and science. In addition to preparing students for tournament competition, Kappa also encourages and finances student membership in the U.S. Chess Federation. Federation membership includes a monthly chess publication for students and entitles members to compete in Federation-sanctioned tournaments.
At the end of the tournament, Childers gave every child a wristband that said “checkmate.” Childers added that his goal is to have a district-wide chess tournament at the end of the year.