Research suggests that playing the game of chess can improve a child’s memory and attention span. It can also help kids with planning and decision-making.
250 young players from Hillsborough County recently put their critical thinking skills to the test during the school district’s 3rd Annual Chess Tournament at Franklin Middle School in Tampa.
The event is the culmination of a yearlong after school program in the Hillsborough County school district for students from Kindergarten through Middle School.
After his third match of the tournament ended in victory, 9-year old Parker Reznik confessed he wasn't sure he would be able to maintain his winning streak.
"My last game I was a bit nervous because the opponent said they'd been playing since they were 5,” he said.
Even so, the Lowry Elementary School student says he’s a big fan of the strategy game.
“I like that anything can happen,” he said. “It just depends on what you do and what your opponent does.”
Meanwhile, his mother Krista Reznik, said she was impressed with the sportsmanship displayed during the tournament.
“It is teaching him to be respectful of his opponents and shake their hands before and after the game,” she said. “I noticed that even though he was very excited to win each of his rounds, he never gloated to his opponent and I think that is very important to learn for all kids, that they should be kind to each other whether they win or lose.”
Reznik says the chess club has also helped give her son a sense of accomplishment.
“He has a drive to do well and is always wanting to better his skills,” she said. “It has helped keep his brain active and engaged all summer and will benefit him when he returns to school in a few weeks.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by fellow parent, Bala Ramaswaamy. His son Arjun will be entering third grade at Mary Bryant Elementary in Tampa.
“He loves the game,” he said. I really want him to do what he’s interested in and where his heart is.”
Hillsborough County school board member Cindy Stuart, who came to the event to cheer on the students, says the district's after school programs address a need within the community.
"Obviously we have a lot of parents who work,” she said. “We have a lot of children who were going home to empty homes and the district recognized that we could keep children at school and do something fun but yet academic and educational.”
Participation in the after school chess program has more than quadrupled since it began with just 51 students.
More than 12,000 students are enrolled in after care in Hillsborough County at 148 elementary and middle schools.
Stuart says that number is likely to grow with the change of bell times approved last fall.
Next school year, elementary school students in the Hillsborough County public school district will be dismissed just before two p.m.