Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013

Students test, build their problem-solving skills with chess

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The 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, lived up to their “lead the way” motto with their Partner in Education Stowers Elementary School. Two Soldiers from the Pioneer Battalion — Staff Sgts. David Butler and James Fitzgerald — spearheaded the chess club at the school to improve student problem-solving skills.

“We are basing PIE directly on our school goals because we want to see some improvement ... so they are doing the penpals for writing and they doing chess and hands-on problem-solving activities,” said Ginger Pearce, PIE coordinator and fourth-grade teacher.

The Soldiers have been working with the children for four weeks.

“I think it’s fabulous,” Pearce said. “It was their idea, they ran with it — it was their baby. They’ve done everything.”

Pearce said she and other teachers selected the children based on their experiences with problem-solving. Some are struggling with problem-solving, others are need a confidence boost and others are doing well with problem-solving.

“If you can learn to think at this grade level, imagine what your thought process will be in junior high school and high school,” Butler said.

The children, Butler said, are America’s future leaders.

“We have to insure that they are able to think quickly, effectively and thoroughly at the same time,” he said. Butler was taught chess with the help of his grandfather at the age of 10. In high school, he won Maryland’s state chess championship twice.

His partner for the chess club, Fitzgerald, is a great teacher and mentor for the kids, Butler said.

“The kids just love him,” Butler said. “He has the ability to teach children who have a hard time learning.”

The school and PIE partners hope that by the end of the year they can have a chess competition for the students, Pearce said. 
“I hope they are maturing enough to take what we learn here ... into the classroom,” Butler said. And even outside of the classroom, Butler said, he know there is an impact.

“We are helping the parents indirectly,” he said. “They don’t know who I am but I’m quite sure they (the kids) go home and tell their moms ‘hey, this guy came and helped me learn to play chess.’ And they’ll see that he or she likes chess ... and they get excited about coming to school and learning.”

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