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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 2, October 2007

A chess course—almost

By Arnie Nermo

After labouring several months, developing a Board Authority Authorized course (BAA) for the Surrey School District, I received a call that I had been dreading for weeks. The Abbotsford Board of Education was offering me a position I could not refuse. I believed I was within a hairs width of having the first secondary school chess courses in North America approved, but with the acceptance of the job in Abbotsford I had to leave behind the possibility of a secondary school chess course; and now my work was all for naught, but maybe not!

I can offer you all the groundwork to apply this BAA chess course in your own school district. I am glad to share it with you for the following reasons: It can provide students of all abilities with an enjoyable lifelong, intellectual pursuit (a general opinion of chess as an elitist or exclusive activity couldn’t be further from the truth). It is an activity where even the weakest academic students can match their wits and beam with success. It is a proven and valuable self-esteem builder. In addition, chess demands that participants exercise their best powers of planning, memory, decision-making, judgment, creativity, and concentration. A secondary school chess course can be the venue for developing critical thinking, analytic, strategic, and tactical problem solving. These skills are applicable and transferable not only in the mathematics curriculum but also to many of life’s situations. Interestingly, chess is known to assist cognitive development for students in four areas–logic, memory, awareness/analysis, and pattern recognition with overall improvements in all school test results, especially mathematics and reading. (Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal WGCTA). The educational benefits of chess are already recognized by its inclusion in the required curricula of over 30 countries including Canada (Quebec and New Brunswick). It is evident that chess is more than just a game.

The teacher of a chess course need not be an expert or aficionado. A rudimentary knowledge of the game would suffice, although a passion for the game would be a definite asset. The application of teaching pedagogy to chess knowledge is not novel. The lessons needed and skills to be learned are inherent and self-evident in the sources and materials provided. It is a course that can easily be taught to keen students, at many of our secondary schools.

As an educator with over 25 years experience, I believe that a secondary school chess course would finally break a paradigm of curricular thinking in BC. Historically schools have been dependant upon the good will of volunteers and sporadic community support. This has not been enough. A chess course will fill a definite need for students in the secondary school curriculum. I know this through the personal experience of having had noon-hour chess with an attendance of over 25 students daily at two separate Surrey secondary schools. I believe implementing this course in BC schools will be a bold step and show a new direction in fulfilling this need. If you are interested, contact me.

Arnie Nermo teaches at Robert Bateman Secondary School, Abbotsford. arnie_nermo@sd34.bc.ca.

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