The students of P.S. 36 have changed their lives just by playing games–chess games.
Last Wednesday, students from P.S. 36 competed against one another to show the new skills they acquired in the cafeteria of their school. However, instead of playing chess the way most people do, using pieces and a chess board, the children made the game come to life by acting as the chess pieces on a large board.
The event was made possible by the founders of the Bey Foundation, Quiame Bey and Darnell Pittman. The Bey Foundation is a nonprofit organization that creates and provides after-school programs for elementary, middle and high school students that focus on developing children’s minds.
The Bey Foundation provides several programs to the children of Harlem, including art, business, culinary, fitness, photography, music, reading and technology classes, but its biggest project yet has been teaching children how to play the game of chess.
“Introducing the game of chess to these kids is both challenging and rewarding,” Bey said. “I got children to focus on a given task. This is the start of something great and it translates into their academics.”
Family and friends came out to support the children of P.S. 36 last week. Before the game started, Bey presented all 36 students with certificates for passing the two courses, Basic and Intermediate Chess, which they needed in order to participate in the final event. A special certificate, the All-Star Student Certificate, was presented to fifth grader Maurice Campbell for his outstanding knowledge of the game.
The students were broken up into two teams, team Swans and team Dragonflies. Bobby Patterson was captain of the Dragonflies, and Maurice Campbell was captain of the Swans. Each captain decided where the individual student chess pieces would go. The queen of each team also consulted with and advised the captain on moves during the game.
The Swans made the first move, E2 to E4. The game of chess requires complete concentration, but the first game was over quickly, with the Swans and their captain winning in only four moves.
The second game took longer, but the Swans won again with the final move, rook to E8.
“This program taught me how to play chess. It is so much fun and I like that I was in control of where the pieces could go,” said Bobby, a fifth grader at P.S. 36 who lost with poise. “I am not good at focusing, but chess has helped me to focus more.”
The students of P.S. 36 began learning the game back in October 2011 and had been practicing by having mini tournaments for months, but this was their first game in front of an audience. Bey and Pittman said that after their success at P.S. 36, they want to expand their organization so that different schools can also compete against one another.
“I enjoy problem solving now. Before, I didn’t. I have so much fun playing chess–it has helped me to handle pressure,” Campbell said. “I always encourage my teammates and tell them to never give up.”