22 March, 2011

NAB Chess Cup

The inaugural NAB Chess Cup, played at the NAB Bank academy on Thursday 10th March 2011, was a brilliant day out. Students from across the Mt. Alexander cluster took a bus from Winters Flat Primary School, with 55 people plus on board, to the NAB Bank headquarters at Docklands.

We departed at 8.00am and we arrived home at 4.00 pm.

The atmosphere at the NAB Bank Tournament was electric. The NAB bank had 120 staff attending as players and spectators. Their attendance was voluntary. The Schools First staff were amazed at the NAB staff turn out. There was a certain respect for our chess students.

The financial gurus were dazzled by Mt Alexander School Cluster’s chess acumen. They approached their young spirited opponents with trepidation.

Our chess students were gracious in victory and dignified in defeat. The NAB bank staff was generous, warm and encouraging, and clearly enjoyed the atmosphere of challenging mind sports and intellectual endeavour. They saw the value of developing strategic thinking and planning skills and wished they had had a program like this when they were kids.

When asked by the “Schools First” conveners about their experience of Mathematics at school, the NAB Bank financial gurus surprisingly expressed the same feelings of anxiety and disaffection that we find across the board in most schools today.

Many expressed the wish that they had been given an innovative program like the Mt Alexander Chess Squared Program, when they were young students.

The financial gurus expressed admiration at how engaged, focused, concentrated and motivated our chess students were. There was a universal consensus that students were amazingly engaged, intellectually focused and high levels of concentration. These are skills and aptitudes many teachers feel are in decline in our schools.

Mt Alexander School Cluster won the tournament 80 wins to 21.5. It was a resounding victory. All in all, it was a brilliant, inspiring, interesting day and a wonderful success for the schools and the NAB bank.

Harry Poulton, (Chess Tutor)
**special thanks to Kevin Brown for developing this initiative.

06 October, 2010

Schools First IMPACT AWARD winner !!

The Chess-Squared Program has been acknowledged with a $50,000 Impact Award as part of the Schools First 2010 Awards. The funding will secure the program for the next 4 years and allow research into the benefits of chess in schools to continue. The supporting evidence of the application can be found here. The judges comments about the project are outlined below. More news to follow.

17 September, 2010

5th Annual Mt. Alexander Cluster Schools Tournament.

The fifth annual Mt. Alexander Cluster Chess-Squared Tournament was the largest and most successful to date.

Students from Castlemaine North P.S, Castlemaine South P.S, Campbells Creek, Maldon, Harcourt Valley, Winters Flat, Elphinstone, Taradale, St. Mary’s, MEC, Malmsbury, and Newstead converged on Castlemaine Secondary College for the day.

Over 250 students attended and Castlemaine Primary School(CPS) won on countback from Winters Flat Primary School in the A-division. Maryborough Education Centre (MEC) won the B division convincingly with CPS second and Maldon P.S third.
WFPS won the C-Team division, St Mary P.S came second and Castlemaine P.S came third.

The event was held at Blakeley Rd Campus with over 30 junior campus students working behind the scenes to make the event a reality. CSC teacher Steve Carroll said: “Most of these students were involved in the chess program when they were at primary school, so they feel a bit of a connection to this event. Setting up tables, acting as judges, meeting and greeting on arrival, and providing catering for 260 people was a big a job and these students are to be commended.”

Chess-Squared co-convenor and local chess stalwart Harry Poulton said: “I admire the feisty competitive spirit of all the kids from our region and they behaved terrifically. Chess is a mind sport. The program is about resilience building and learning to think logically and creatively under time constraints and the pressure of competition. The hope is the skills students learn in the chess program will generalise to other areas of their lives. “

“At the Chess Squared Program we would like to thank teachers, school staff, parents and all volunteers for all their help and support. The feed back was tremendous and parents really appreciated the concept of a competitive mind sport where where kids engage in a battle of ideas and learn thinking is not nerdy. It is for the brave-hearts.”

Students from the winning teams will progress to State Finals later in the year.

01 July, 2010

Over the Board with Harry

Hi fellow chess aficionados,

I have been neglecting the blog lately but am going to remedy that in the coming time.
Just to give you an insight into the scope and depth of the Chess Squared Program (CSP) in September, fifteen schools, who use chess in their math's curriculum, will compete in the Mt Alexander School Cluster Regional Chess Championships. There will be approximately 290 primary school kids competing making it the largest chess tournament of its kind in rural Australia.

The important thing about the CPS is that for the last five years we have maintained a curriculum based (learning time not lunchtime) chess program which fifteen (15) schools have been willing to finance. I have heard of similar programs running in Canada and the U.S.A but they are very few and far between. I think we are unique because we use chess in our primary school math's curriculum.

My co-development officer in the Steve Carroll has completed a minor thesis on program building and social capital which I am sure will be an edifying read for anyone interested in developing a similar program as the CSP.

I have also begun my Master of Education (Hon) research project. The proposed research study will focus on the Chess Squared Program (CSP). The program seeks to influence students’ learning and thinking especially in regards to improving resilience, perseverance, impulse control and to enhance mathematics outcomes.
The research study will focus on why some students excel at playing chess and compare different groups (for example gender, participation in school, home background, ethnicity) of students and attempt to answer if and why some groups do better than others.

The research will be amongst the first attempts of this kind to investigate the link between learning to play chess and learning mathematics, problem solving, and affective domain skills.

The expected benefits for schools and students will be:

 Insights into the learning processes that engender greater resilience, motivation and strategic thinking skills and may show ways to motivate low achieving students.
 Strengthen public confidence in a world-class school education system, with a strong government school sector at its core.
 Develop an innovative approach to delivering curriculum and test the veracity of the approach.

Steve and I hope the blog will develop into a learning & knowledge sharing forum around these challenging subjects.

Regards Harry

03 June, 2010

Playing to Learn

Have to confess up, I'm a sucker for some of these web2.0 technologies, and feel all my Christmas's came at once stumbling across this website.

In the 5 years this blog has been running, so much in web2.0 land has changed. This program called prezi allows quite stunning presentations to be made including this one examing the role of 'play' in 'learning': a topic we've been interested at Chess-Squared since its inception.

If this presentation doesn't work in your browser, click the link below and watch the show on the prezi website. It'll be well worth it.

24 April, 2010

Social Capital. Part1: The missing piece of the jigsaw.

When I heard a presentation about social capital a few years ago, I had an ‘a-ha moment’. Since then I’ve explored and read different viewpoints and have reached the conclusion the construct remains the great ‘sleeper’ in education. Truly understanding what social capital is, and how to build it in schools, lies at the heart of improving a range of different outcomes.

One paradox with social capital is that it’s not clearly defined, partly because researchers are still exploring it. Another issue is it’s a difficult thing to measure. In the next couple of posts I want to look at social capital in a school context and try to contribute to solving this fascinating jigsaw in education.

At present there are three different types of social capital: bonding, bridging and linking.

Bonding social capital strengthens ties between similar groups in a way that benefits their members. In a school this means the quality of the range of relationships that can exist. Eg: student-student, student-teacher, teacher-managemnet, parent-school. Consider it as any relationship with the direct stakeholders of the school. ie- inside the walls of the school. Schools, by their nature, overflow with bonding social capital.

Bridging social capital builds ties between dissimilar groups in a way that can have wider social benefits. Bridging social capital that directly effects students might include- a work experience, community service, a student exchange, participating in inter-school events. (cluster/ regional/ state/ national/ international.)Bringing schools together to share resources and link with their community builds bridging social capital.

Linking social capital involves building ties between groups at an organizational level, so the relationship can leverage power, influence or funding. You might think of it as ‘big-picture’ stuff. When schools partner in funding submissions with other agencies a form of linking social capital can see funding granted far greater than a school could receive on its own. Through ICT, teachers or schools have potential to build networks on a global scale that was unimaginable a decade ago. Sharing and collaborating on a global level is an emerging benefit of linking social capital.

In a report titled ‘The Future of Schooling in Australia” (2007), Peter Dawkins explains the achievement gap that exists in Australian Education is accounted largely , to an extent of 70%, by variation in social background- and that this relationship has proven resistant to change over time.

One writer who articulates the potential of social capital, with an evidence base, is Ros Black, senior Research Manager at the Foundations of Young Australians. Black argues, in her book titled 'Beyond The Classroom', the greatest potential in shifting this achievement imbalance in Australia is to develop school climates that actively build bridging social capital.

In the next few posts I’ll discuss social capital in more detail, but in the meantime, if you want to purchase Blacks book articulating her platform for reform and her evidence supporting it, click here.

20 February, 2010

Tutor Profile: JOHN LAVERY.

John Lavery is a legend in the local chess scene. In the 1990’s he retired from his job and moved to Castlemaine. He now spends his time tutoring young children in the game of Chess at seven different schools and has taught about 400 students in his three years of tutoring. Lavery stays motivated when teaching children chess, by always hoping that he will discover ‘exciting chess talent’.

Throughout his chess journey he has had many successes; including winning the Victorian Minor Championship, coming third in the Australian Seniors championship and winning the Victorian country championship, just to name a few.

It was by pure chance that John discovered the game of chess. When he was around 15 or 16 he found himself in hospital, with nothing to do. To relieve his boredom the man in the bed next to him offered to teach him how to play Chess. From then on he learnt more and more and persisted until he became the Junior Chess Champion of Northern Ireland, when he was 17 or 18. He then moved to England and played in big chess leagues.

In 1962, he migrated to Australia and in 1964 he joined the Melbourne Chess Club; the oldest Chess club in the Southern Hemisphere. His impressive chess feats helped him become the President of the Melbourne Chess club.

When John was in his 50’s he retired from his office equipment business. He then had his own business, but then moved to Castlemaine in the 1990’s.

Lavery has a very deep and meaningful view on the game of chess. He believes that chess mirrors life. It is full of accidents; mistakes and bad luck yet, it gives you a chance to meet new people. If you make a mistake it is your fault, not somebody else’s, therefore allowing you to take responsibility for your actions.

John enjoys chess because the more you learn, the more you enjoy the game. He believes it is ‘a game of continual renewal’ and is always challenging. Through great perseverance and persistence John has succeeded in becoming a well known identity in the Victorian chess scene.

By Amy Green and Jayden Daldy. Yr9 Journalism