At New River Middle School, 7th grade science teacher Mateo Garcia started his club on Friday mornings before school. He set up boards outside his classroom for anyone to play but for the kids who register for the club and make a commitment, he gives a short class using Chess Magnet School lessons projected on a white board and then the kids play. He has 32 members over 20 of whom he says are very active. One 8th grade kid, a “soccer star” and who did not know how to play chess, learned from Mr. Garcia. He was being teased for “joining the nerds” but in just a few months has become one of the top players. Once he got “hooked” according to Mr. Garcia, the boy started playing online at home and he now plays “all the time.” Mr. Garcia also started hosting a weekly chess lunch for his 7th grade chess kids; it quickly evolved into the kids playing almost every day and Mr. Garcia says he is going to have to break this into 2 groups who will have lunch with him on alternating days. The principal, Melinda Lessinger, has been very supportive and has approved a chess elective for incoming 6th graders which will run in the 2015-16 school year with Mr. Garcia teaching 2 chess classes per quarter. Mr. Garcia has contacted NSCF for help with selecting an appropriate curriculum.
At Nova High School, we had 2 teachers complete the training: Mrs. Basma Andre, a chemistry teacher started a club. She generally teaches AP/honors classes but this year had a class of lower performing students that she is now teaching chess for one period per week. Her honors classes have complained to her that they want a chess class too. Ms. Sade Badewa, a math teacher, has completed both days of the training and has been approved for a one day per week chess class for low-performing students beginning in the Fall; she will be doing a comparison between 2 similarly performing classes for 10th and 11th grades (one class at each grade level gets chess and one does not). Shee will be evaluating this periodically as Ms. Badewa wants to ensure she is not denying students a beneficial tool but also wants the data to report to the school district. NSCF will be introducing her to a PhD student who also recently took the training and approached us about doing her doctoral dissertation on chess and STEM. From these beginnings, the principal at Nova High has embraced the idea of a chess elective where, over the course of the next school year, all incoming 9th graders will have some amount of chess instruction. The assistant principal, Mrs. Heidi Jones, recently met with us to discuss how NSCF might help them with this initiative.
We’ve had great reports from the Juvenile Detention Center where BEF was able to supply books and sets in addition to the training. Also from Cypress Run Elementary School where one teacher, Mr. Johnson, has taken the training and now a behavioral specialist from Smith Community Mental Health has also taken the workshop. The principal, Dr. Harrigan, called NSCF and said he is looking for a chess club to be formed and that he sees chess as a positive diversionary tactic; he hopes the kids will return to their home schools and be able to join a productive activity and become more engaged at their schools. Of course that means we need chess clubs at all the high schools! Another program was started by 2 deputies at the Police Athletic League site in West Park (Millennium Middle School). They got started after the first workshop class, both have now taken the second class. Broward Sheriff’s Office purchased enough boards and sets to start programs at all 3 PALS sites (deputies still to be trained). Again, these are but a few of the reports we are receiving after the workshops.