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More Chess at Nurseries! 2006-10-13

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Glasgow, Humanities, Scotland.
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Children as young as 3 are to be taught chess at up to 50 nurseries in an effort to improve their concentration and mental dexterity.

The plan, which will see the board game join traditional nursery pastimes such as ‘hop-scotch’ and ‘tag’, follows the success of a pilot programme near Glasgow.

While their ‘Queen’s gambits‘, ‘Sicilian defences‘ and ‘Zugzwang endgames‘ might not be at the level of the grandmaster, some 80 pupils at ‘Holy Family’ nursery in Kirkintilloch are now capable of playing out complete games against one another.

‘East Dunbartonshire Council’ has distributed a 20-page booklet to all its 49 pre-schools, laying out a lesson plan for teaching chess to three and four-year- olds.

Students are introduced to the game through fantasy stories involving castles, knights and bishops. They are then taught the names of each piece and their position on the board, before restrictions on their movements are explained. Ms.Anne Smith, of ‘East Dunbartonshire Council’, said:

‘We were looking to challenge the children.

‘ We’ve seen an improvement in [children’s] concentration, vocabulary and spatial awareness.’

While some students find it difficult to develop strategy, others become competent chess players within months, according to Mr.Tom Dibble of ‘The Scottish Chess Association‘, who assisted with the pilot programme.

‘Make no mistake: these kids can beat you,’ he said.

‘If you don’t know how to defend against a two-move or four-move checkmate, you will lose to some of these pupils’.

Mr.Michale Boyle, who plays regularly with his daughter and ‘Holy Family’ Primary pupil Lucia, four, said:

‘I can still beat her, thank God.

‘It’s great fun for both of us and I think it really has helped her concentration’.

The pilot programme follows a report by HMI in Scotland that called for a more challenging curriculum for nursery-age students. Recent research has highlighted the role of early education and specifically ‘enriched’ environments, in the development of neuro-networks and intelligence.

Deputy President of  ‘The European Chess Union’ Mr.Gerry Walsh
, said:

‘Programmes in primary schools has demonstrated that chess improves mental discipline and the ability to calculate. There’s no reason why that would not be true for even younger students’.

Playing the game can build intelligence

Chess is not the only game that can be taught to children to improve concentration.

Rudimentary board games, including draughts and snakes and ladders, can help build mental skills, and many companies make games specifically designed to bolster IQ.

The Rubik’s Cube‘ is an old but effective toy, while ‘Nintendo’ recently introduced an intelligence-building video game and mobile phones offer downloadable puzzles. But it can even be easier than this; research has highlighted the role of ‘enriched environments’ in the development of intelligence — reading stories to a child, taking them to the zoo, and allowing video games in moderation can help a child to develop.

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