MARQUETTE- Bishop to d3. Rook to d8. These are just a few of the moves that middle schoolers in Negaunee are learning during their lunchtime chess club.
In it’s fourth year, the Negaunee Middle School Chess Club was created to get students involved and meeting other students and making new friends. Heather Turner, the middle school counselor, is the advisor and an elementary chess player.
“I learned how to play chess from a friend in college,” Turner said. “I also worked at a camp in Ann Arbor that was a chess camp. So when I was trying to find something to do to bring kids together I thought a chess club would be a good way.”
According to Turner, not only does play chess bring the students together but it helps with classroom performance, develops executive functioning skills, instills patience, self-control and confidence, teaches the benefits of short and long-term planning and provides opportunities to learn and practice leadership.
“It also teaches the kids good conversation skills,” Turner said. “I just wanted to find a creative way to connect kids and this has been a good way (to do that).”
Over the past three years, Turner said she has had anywhere from 10 to 12 students sign up for chess club, but this year there was an overwhelming turn out.
“I had 42 kids sign up,” she said. “I had to actually turn some of them away and had them sign up on a sheet. We just don’t have enough boards to accommodate everyone.”
Right now, the chess club meets during lunch on Thursdays through May, but Turner said she might add more times with the amount of students she has interested.
“Right now we have about six complete sets,” she said. “So we’re accepting any donations from people who have old chess boards that they don’t use anymore.”
With so many students signed up for chess club, there is a variety of skill sets among the group. Eighth grader George Hart-Waara, 13, has been in the club for two years now and has been playing the game for about three years. Hart-Waara said he finds chess fun because it’s challenging.
“You have to think a lot about what you do because it does matter where you put your pieces,” he said.
Hart-Waara said he started playing at his uncle’s house when he was younger because he had a carved chess set there, so his cousin taught him how to play.
“My favorite part is figuring out how to take out my opponent without losing my own pieces,” he said.
This is the first year for seventh grader Devyn Grover, 11, who said he joined because he had something like this at his old school.
“I like it because it makes you think,” Grover said. “If you make a wrong move you could lose the most important piece.”
Grover said the most challenging part of chess is that it can take a while to learn all the rules and strategies. He said he learned by reading a rule book.
“I started to play when my mom’s friend got me a beginners chess set,” Grover said. “It had a rule book that I read through, and then I would challenge my mom. She doesn’t like playing chess.”
For more information about Negaunee Middle School Chess Club or to donate a chess set contact Heather Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is email@example.com