Archived Story

All the right moves [UPDATED]

Published 10:43am Wednesday, May 22, 2013 Updated 10:44am Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kindergartners are learning valuable life skills one piece at a time at McKinley School thanks to a grant from the 544 Foundation.

In January, teacher Shelley Shoeneck used money from the foundation to purchase her class several chess sets. Each week since purchasing the sets, the children have learned about a new piece and steadily developed their abilities.

For Shoeneck, the fun activity is a great way to extend lessons beyond specific subjects in class.

“There’s lots of lessons in chess. They have to slow down and think through their actions, just like in life,” Shoeneck said. “It’s taking turns and it’s learning sportsmanship.”

Shoeneck has been teaching chess to her classes for six years. While this is her first year in the public school district, she has found that parents appreciate what the game brings their children.

“Some have said it was the best thing to ever teach a student because they have started to play as a family,” she said. “ There’s been a lot of great feedback.”

The students have come to appreciate the game as well. During free time when students are allowed to take the boards out, Shoeneck said half the class will often choose to play the game. With practice, the game sharpens their intelligence and what they learn for the rest of the day.

“They take the skills outside the game of chess,” Shoeneck said. “If you sit and watch, some are able to see two moves ahead.”

Shoeneck said the game also gives lessons on adversity and teaches them not to give up when they encounter defeat. Before every game, Shoeneck has the children shake hands and wish each other luck. When the game is over, they shake hands again before starting over. While there are certainly disputes, Shoeneck matches ability levels so the students can learn together.

On Tuesday, the students got to show off their skills when Mindy Fuder and Missy Mattson of the 544 Foundation came to play, and learn, with the class.

“They love the opportunity to be the teacher,” Shoeneck said.

Thanks to the generous grant of the foundation, Shoeneck said she has brought the game to students who might not have ever learned to play.

“We so appreciate the opportunity to provide these things to our students that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” Shoeneck said. “It’s great to have [the foundation] there for us.”

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