For several years, our Georgia‐Pacific Memphis Cellulose facility has supported the Douglass K‐8 Optional School and its STEM program. Part of that engagement also means support for the school’s chess class. Since it began a few years ago, the students have made big strides in learning performance, both individually and school‐wide.
Several years ago, Douglass K‐8 Optional School in Memphis was among the most underperforming schools in Tennessee. The percentage of students who were proficient in reading at grade‐level was only in the single digits. But the teachers, administrators and the larger community, including Georgia‐Pacific, believed that given the opportunity, these students could rise to the challenge.
To help in this effort, chess was introduced as part of the curriculum as an experiment to promote critical thinking. Since then, the school has seen significant growth in students' learning and overall performance.
Kamiah Turner, the principal at Douglass K‐8 Optional School said, ”It's a confidence booster for many of our children. We try to make sure that every child in Kindergarten through 5th grade touches the chess class.”
Both teachers and parents report that chess is helping students in ways they hadn’t even imagined, including thinking critically about choices, seeing potential roadblocks before they happen and finding ways to overcome challenges. They’ve also learned that even losing a chess game, while disappointing, can be a motivating driver to learn, grow and get better.
Recently, an opportunity came up for Douglass students to challenge elementary students in Poland to compete in a virtual international chess tournament. Thanks to technology, students living on different continents, thousands of miles apart, were connecting, learning from one another and having fun.
Jacek Dutkiewicz, senior research scientist for GP Memphis Cellulose and class volunteer has seen the students' progress first‐hand. He said, ”There are no winners or losers here – everyone is a winner!&drquo;
Check out the video to watch the students in Memphis and Poland experience a virtual chess tournament!