Rotary move puts chess in classroomA new move by Superior Rotary brought chess into play at Great Lakes Elementary School.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
A new move by Superior Rotary brought chess into play at Great Lakes Elementary School.
The club provided $200 to purchase chessboards for the students in Mary Johnson-Garay’s third grade class and Rotarian James Farkas volunteered time every Friday to teach students the game. Last week, the 8- and 9-year-olds thanked the Rotary with all the candor of youth.
“The first day Mr. Farkas came, I thought it would be really boring,” Clara Lundholm told the Rotarians. “Mr. Farkas proved me wrong.”
Blessing Braaten said she and her classmates now play chess twice a day during their choosing time. They play one-on-one or in teams. Some even play two games at a time.
“This is the best game ever,” said Gwen Hackensmith.
Learning chess helped her and her fellow classmates focus and get more things done, Raven Mickelson said, and it’s all about math.
“It teaches you how to make the right move in life like you do in chess,” said Joe Weber. He liked the game so much that he taught his mother to play.
Most of the students had a special thank you for Farkas, the general manager of Northern Engineering.
“You did not have to do this for our class, but you did,” said Ben McCoy. The third grader had two questions for the Rotary: “Can you do it next year in fourth grade? If not, can you do it in summer school?”
The partnership began with a request from Johnson-Garay. She asked for 15 volunteers to work one-on-one with her students. Farkas was the lone volunteer, but she got more than she had hoped for, the teacher said.
“Along with learning about the game of chess, the students learned lifelong skills,” Johnson-Garay said. Chess teaches kids to plan ahead, how a decision can lead to a chain of events, teamwork, cooperation, patience with others, support for each other, acceptance of others’ choices and how to accept defeat. One of the things Johnson-Garay has heard her 15 students say more often since chess started is, “We have to think before we speak.”
Other teachers have noticed the third graders’ enthusiasm and asked to borrow Johnson-Garay’s “chess guy.”
“Everybody wants my James Farkas, and I’m not sharing him,” she said.
The Rotarian said he was pleasantly surprised at the students’ interest in chess.
“I was under the mistaken impression that youth today were involved in texting, cell phones …,” Farkas said. “A game at least 600 years old has captured their attention.”
People often think kids only want to live in the digital age, Johnson-Garay said. However, hands-on board games have a big draw for children and help build relationships.
She thanked Superior Rotary members for their opening move. In addition, she countered with one of her own.
“I open the school door for you; any of you are welcome,” Johnson-Garay said. “Come in and see what’s going on.”
She also encouraged them to “take the opportunity when it comes your way” to volunteer with a class.
As Farkas told the group, “these are all, in a sense, your students.”