Thirty East Broadway Elementary School fourth- and fifth-graders are practicing their problem solving and sportsmanship skills each week with the help of the after-school East Broadway Chess Club, advised by Dr. Leigh Rust, school psychologist and Danielle Bantileskas, school social worker. Members meet once a week to engage in friendly competition with free play and chess tournaments against their peers.
The club brings together students with an array of different interests, academic levels and skills. Students read the rules of the game together before tournament time which consists of shaking hands before starting, not assisting other players, raising their hand when there is a checkmate and more. The game itself also serves many benefits for the students.
"Chess strengthens executive functioning, planning, organization, problem solving, logic and sportsmanship abilities," said Dr. Rust.
Three former club members who now attend Jonas E. Salk Middle School, return to the school each week to share their passion for the game with the students. Sixth-graders Joe Healy and Brody O'Doherty and seventh-grader David Silberger walk around the room to assist members who may need help making strategic moves. Both Joe and David also have siblings who participate in the club.
"We both like chess and Dr. Rust is an awesome teacher," said Joe
. "It's fun to be able to help."
The club also reinforces positive behavior during non-tournament days. For those displaying good behavior, students can earn "magical pieces" which can be used against an opponent. They also have the chance to select the background music which is played during games. Students enjoy coming to the club each week to get to know and play with other members.
"My favorite part about this club is being able to communicate with my friends while playing a fun game," said fifth-grader C.J. McNulty. "I wanted to join Chess Club because I used to play the game all the time at home and I thought it would be fun."