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.

1 comment:

Thelonious said...

Ahhh the art of cool. Did you know there was a central Victorian radio program called 'The Other side Of Cool' that ran for many years on 3CCC? And now it's chess that's cool. Keep up the great work.