The National Scholastic Chess Foundation recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with an intimate fundraising dinner at the home of Betsy & Doug Korn. NSCF Executive Director Sunil Weeramantry shared some of the organization’s initiatives to grow scholastic chess and to recognize the game’s role as a cultural activity as well as a tool to increase student performance.
Over the past 18 months, the NSCF has developed and piloted two full-day teacher training workshops that take an instructor from beginner to being able to offer over 20 weeks of chess instruction regardless of the grade level of students being taught. Partnering with the Broward Education Foundation (BEF) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the NSCF has delivered the workshops to over 250 teachers and youth workers with dozens of new chess programs now open in after school, summer learning and community centers across Broward County.
One program we’re particularly proud of is a new middle school elective chess class which is offered in the school day by Mateo Garcia, a science teacher at New River Middle School and NSCF Level 2 Certified Instructor. Another program is training Broward Sheriff’s Deputies to use chess as a way of engaging at-risk youth. The deputies have even come to play chess at the Juvenile Detention Center where Alvino Durham, a social studies teacher who has completed both NSCF workshops, teaches chess to his students. The partnership with BEF has allowed the NSCF to take chess beyond the four walls of the classroom by training parks & recreation department staff, as well as youth mentors from community programs such as Boys & Girls Clubs, the YMCA and HANDY, an organization that serves children in the foster care system.
The NSCF workshops have recently expanded to California where Sunil is training after school program staff who will teach chess in summer learning programs. Presented by the Fresno County Office of Education, the majority of students come from a program called California Teaching Fellows. CTF employs education majors from California State University Fresno to work in extended learning programs. Upon graduation, these teachers will take their chess instruction skills to schools all across California.
The second initiative Sunil shared is a new book the NSCF has been working on which will be called “Great Moves: Learning Chess Through History.” A blended learning textbook that teaches chess and social studies, this work explores the development of chess as it progresses through the Renaissance to the Industrial Age. The book shows how chess intersects with both the sciences and the arts as the game’s leading players were also philosophers, mathematicians, musicians and actors. The writing of this project is now complete and the book is being prepared for publication later this year.
A slide show presentation featuring highlights from recent NSCF tournaments was accompanied by original music generously supplied by renowned classical pianist and composer Jason Kouchak. Sunil had recently come across an article discussing how introducing subjects such as chess and ballet have inspired a great turnaround in a previously failing school in upstate New York. Sunil shared that Mr. Kouchak, in an effort to encourage more girls to play chess, had recently created a work that combined chess and ballet. The new performance piece was presented at the British Museum in London. The NSCF is now working to bring a similar production to New York but with a unique twist. While the British Museum utilized professional dancers, the NSCF production will feature student dancers and chess players.
“So much of today’s education is focused on creating experts in very narrow fields. Much has been made of the role chess can play in improving academic outcomes. While the NSCF agrees, we also want to inspire a student’s curiosity beyond the chessboard,” Sunil shared. “One of the most influential chess players in history was Philidor whose operas are still performed more than 200 years after his death. Another was Benjamin Franklin who published The Morals of Chess. We want our students to know that they too can be Renaissance-men and women excelling in many aspects of life.”
Creating and executing these programs requires broadening the base of support for the NSCF. We invite you to join us as we use chess to develop cultural literacy in addition to the many other benefits chess has been shown to contribute to a child’s education. To find out how you can help, please visit our Support Us page.