Canberra school embraces chess to complement education

According to the ACT Chess Association, the board game teaches kids to be objective in approaching problems. (ABC Central West: Melanie Pearce)

According to the ACT Chess Association, the board game teaches kids to be objective in approaching problems. (ABC Central West: Melanie Pearce)

Amaroo School in Canberra’s north has welcomed calls for chess to be included in the school curriculum as a way to improve student performance.

The school has found chess offers students the opportunity to develop advanced problem solving skills.

Amaroo School principal Richard Powell said chess was a valuable learning experience and gave students a skill set they could apply in their everyday lives.

“Chess is about logical thinking and thinking in very planned, mathematical patterns,” he said.

“We’re also interested in what motivates the kids to learn more and if competition motivates learning, then chess is a great thing because there’s certainly plenty of competition in chess.”

Mr Powell said time had been a significant barrier to including chess in a busy school day.

“Everybody has ideas around what we should include in the primary school curriculum and if we included it all, I’m sure we’d fill up 300 per cent of the day.

“What we’ve done, because we value chess, was in previous years we’ve had it as part of a relief program for kids.

“All students in year three for example had the opportunity to be exposed to chess, learn the game and learn the rules.

“We’re now providing an elective chess program for years six and seven to opt into, which motivates and certainly engages the kids.”

The school has a big outdoor chess set in the playground where kids can play in their free time, as well as traditional-sized sets used in the classroom.

Economist and former Liberal advisor John Adams is leading a push to make chess part of the national curriculum.

Mr Adams will lead a research project over the next year to explore the positive impacts of the game on brain development.

ACT Chess Association’s Shaun Press said chess would teach students how to deal with winning and losing in everyday life.

“In life we win sometimes, we lose sometimes and we have to understand that we do both,” he said.

“Chess teaches [kids] how to deal with both of those situations.

“One of the other things that chess really teaches kids is to be objective in looking at problems.

“Rather than wishing for a solution that suits, you have to understand that the factors in front of you help determine the solution that’s going to turn up.”

Mr Press said the amount of content schools are expected to include in the curriculum had left little space for chess.

“Unfortunately the national curriculum has crowded out chess in part and that’s really the difficulty.”

He said making time for activities like chess would be possible on days when relief teachers were called in.

“Where the teachers aren’t teaching and are on release for personal development, chess can squeeze into that part of the day,” he said.

Hannah Walmsley

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About Tsogo Sun Moves for Life

Education through Chess. A proven intervention to unlock the potential of SA's children. Moves for Life unlocks the cognitive potential of South African children by structured implementation of chess education where essential aspects of the game are actively linked with math, science and lifeskill concepts. Learning fundamental concepts are made fun and exciting for the child.
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