28 August, 2006

'A time to reflect.' by Leanne Preece

“Mrs Preece, ya wanna vs me?” challenged Conor, a delightful year seven student, while I observed a game of chess one lunchtime.

“If you can teach me how to play first”, I replied. Conor shrugged her shoulders and walked off to find a more challenging opponent.

And so it came to be that, once again, I found myself reflecting upon why I have never really wanted to learn to play chess before it became so popular at the Junior Campus of Castlemaine Secondary College.

It comes down to three things:
1. I once bought myself a terrific book on how to play the game of chess. I read the introduction,
“Chess is a game of war. You control one army, and your opponent, the enemy, controls the other, the fate of your army depends entirely on your own skill. Most other games rely on chance – a move may be determined by the role of a die, or the turn of a card. But in chess there is no such thing as luck” …………and got no further. I have always enjoyed playing other games; my opponents often accuse me of being lucky.

2. Before you make a move on a chess board you need to try and predict how your opponent will respond. In deciding what to play, you need to apply REASON, MEMORY, and LOGIC. Why would I want to use up my precious leisure time doing this, it sounds like hard work?

3. I get my energy from other people (yes call me an extrovert). The though of having to sit quietly, for what seems like an age is not really my style. I prefer to work in collaboration with others, hear their ideas and have mine discussed. Everyone is so quiet when they are concentrating on their game.

And so you see, Conor chose wisely when she sought another opponent. Is there anyone out there who would be patient enough to teach me how to play and play to WIN?

Leanne Preece
Junior Campus Principal - Castlemaine Secondary College

22 August, 2006

Chess and 'The Art of COOL'

OLIVERS Sports Store shop window: Mostyn St. Castlemaine. Victoria

It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it.
I’m sure someone famous said something like that once.

When Harry and I developed the Chess in Schools Program, the game had a bit of an image problem at Castlemaine Secondary College.
It had a small band of loyal student followers. But there were detractors. Some boys felt chess threatened their sexuality, it wasn’t sporty, was uncool, and even downright nerdy.

So, therein layed our challenge: how to make chess cool?

We took a shotgun approach, and were prepared to try anything. We’d smile at the detractors, and ask if they’d ever played chess. We’d invite them into watch- sometimes they entered, other times they declined. And while we played, we’d talk to them: ask them about stuff- home, friends, their history, and school. Chess became a tool for connectedness: getting to know their story. And we noticed more people would come along.

Another angle was to introduce chess at a primary school level, so when students started secondary school, chess was second nature and something they just did!
After brilliant work by our tutoring team from Castlemaine Chess Club we’ve managed to weave fun and entertainment with deep levels of thinking, strategising, and learning. Chess is fun and kids feel they are learning and developing useful skills for life.

Many different threads have woven together to make our fabric: developing a schools chess culture across a community.

But then something really special happened: a piece of public relations gold!

It wasn’t a feature article in an Education Research magazine. It wasn’t being mentioned on one of America’s biggest chess blogs. Or a Japanese school picking up our program. Or the Sydney Morning Herald article.

Parents and students don’t dwell in these spheres. It’s not their world.

Thanks to Winters Flat P.S our chess program got a guernsey, in the main street of town, in the shop window of the locals sports store!

And then, we knew we’d made chess cool.

15 August, 2006

Our Enterprising Community

As Phase 2 of CHESS-SQUARED draws to a close lets reflect on some of our achievements since the program started in May.

The image above is the logo for the ‘Our Enterprising Community’ project being run from Castlemaine Secondary College.

In May 2005, CSC received significant federal funding to develop national protocols for implementing Enterprise Education in Australian schools. The project invested heavily on staff development with Fabian Dattner, and sent a posse of teachers to Scandinavia examining best practice in Enterprise Education.

So, what is Enterprise Education?

In Castlemaine, it’s many things, and operates on many levels.

In terms of CHESS-SQUARED this translates into a program that has continually evolved, developed, and at times even changed direction. We started with a vague idea- to develop a school chess culture across a community- and slowly, move by move, headed in that direction.

Most schools run a chess program. So what, if anything, makes ours any different?

Phase 1 saw an idea develop:
 A partnership with Castlemaine Chess Club and Innovations and Excellence
 Purchase of classroom resources
 Development of lesson plans and resource material.

Phase 2 saw the launch of the project into 13 schools across the cluster in May, and since then:
 Partnership and mentor support from Latrobe University
 Development of a weblog (Blog) as a communication tool
 Press coverage in Education Times, Midland Express, Sydney Morning Herald
 2,500 feature article in ACER publication Teacher magazine
 Presented at a Simmer conference on using ICT to promote maths, science, and technology in rural school communties
 Featured on Susan Polgars blog in America
 Funding support from School Focused Youth Service (SFYS)
 Partnership with Castlemaine Community House
 Commitment for further support from Innovations and Excellence
 A teacher from Japan visiting the program, taking our model and resources to use in her school in Japan
 Local shops displaying the program in their shop windows
 Enecdotal data from teachers, and empirical data from observation schedules
 An estimated 260 students exposed to regular chess tutoring across Mt Alexander cluster

Enterprise Education is about fostering the resources of our community to support student learning. It's about thinking laterally. And seizing opportunities.
If developing enterprising skills in students involves attributes of thinking, planning, impulse control, and using strategy then surely we have embarked on that journey.

Phase3 of CHESS-SQUARED starts tomorrow.