Teaching life lessons through the game of chess

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) —  They’re teaching life lessons through the game of chess.

IPS School 15 has a unique chess club these days. It was started by IMPD east district officer Candi Perry in January.

A dozen elementary school students have come to first learn, then play chess, every Tuesday and Thursday in the school library.

The goal? To teach children through the game of chess – teamwork, attitude adjustment, mental focus, and concentration.

“I have difficulty even finding all the words, to just express how it’s going. It’s just incredible. Absolutely phenomenal to see the growth, the excitement,” said Officer Perry.

“I’ve seen their attitudes change, the things they’re saying about school. The teamwork, is just unbelievable,” she added. “At first, they were refusing to work as a team. In a matter of a few weeks, they refuse to do anything without the team making the decision.”

“I can come and be known for who I am, and have friends here,” said a ten year old fourth grader. “I think it’s very fun, and it’s good because I don’t have to be outside. I can stay in here and do work while I’m here.”

“I like how it relates to the real world,” said one fifth-grader.

“If somebody had me in checkmate, don’t get mad over it,” said another. “If there’s a stalemate, don’t get frustrated about it.”

Perry says the kids have also learned about teamwork in another way: when one member of their group made a bad choice, and stole from another member of the group, at first, he was asked to leave. After listening to his case, then voting, the group decided to let him back in: showing another way of teamwork in action.

“It was just amazing the way they talked about it, no animosity, no arguing,” said Cyndi Miller, a teacher at School 15, Thomas D. Gregg elementary, who has helped with the chess club. “They learned the benefits of teamwork.”

There’s more than chess during the hour or so they spend together. Officer Perry says she and the students came up with an acronym for the word “chess.” She quizzes the students when they meet, so they learn more about mental focus and concentration, that way.

One student explained the acronym, “C – challenge your mind. H – heed your passion. E- engage with others. S – sacrifice bad for the good. S – soar beyond measure.”

Sometimes just having someone there, makes a difference.

“She is an absolute example for these boys. Some of these kids, that’s all it takes, is having an adult be there for them, and not let them down. If she says she’s going to be here she’s here. Some of these kids don’t have that,” said “Officer Candi supported me with everything I needed to know,” said one student.

“She’s a very smart, educated, and truthful woman,” added another.

“Too many of our youth, why do they lose their jobs? Because they blow up, their attitudes.. they can’t get along with anybody. So to teach them here, at 10, 11, 12 years old, through chess, is priceless. Those are the type of things that are going to continue on for the rest of their life,” said Perry.

“These kids can do anything they put their minds to, you just have to give them the chance to do it,” added Miller.

“If I ever grow up to be a professional chess player, I’d like to own a building, so I could have students come,” said one fourth-grader.

Dreaming big, starting with a simple chess board: just ask Officer Perry.

“The sky is the limit,” she explains.

Perry hopes someday to expand the chess club to other schools.

Next Tuesday, will be a special day for the chess club. Instead of playing each other, they’ll be playing officers from the east district in a tournament.


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