WARSAW — Washington STEM and Madison Elementary School students regularly enjoy games of chess when their respective chess clubs meet. At Washington, 65 students from kindergarten to sixth grade are members; Madison has about 68. Jay Bolduc, a choir teacher with Warsaw Community Schools, oversees both programs.
“I’ve played off and on for 20 years,” said Bolduc, adding he doesn’t play so much himself anymore, but “I enjoy teaching it.”
On a weekly basis, Bolduc helps students hone their chess skills and sponsors both schools’ chess teams, which participate in tournaments against other schools and each other.
“There’s a nice friendly competition between them,” he commented, noting Washington and Madison both have very talented players. And in the past both schools have had teams make it to state, even seizing the title of state runners up, a major accomplishment.
To help students grow, the clubs sport technology chess players of yesteryears never saw coming: handheld computers, made possible through an Apple grant and the Warsaw Education Foundation — a major supporter of the club.
“You can only use certain devices at tournaments,” Bolduc explained, stating their devices can’t be used to cheat. “They make it easier to track their moves than with pen and paper. We can take the data and analyze it to see where their mistakes were.” This is particularly important for the schools’ chess teams.
Fourth-grader Nathanael Anderson, who has been playing for two and a half years now, said, “My dad would play it a lot and I thought maybe I should try it. I tried it and liked it. I joined the chess club to play better and play like I do now.”
As for what he enjoys most, Anderson said, “Probably the challenge of my opponents and having to think hard sometimes.”
“It helps them in other areas of academics,” Amber Katris said. Katris’ two sons had asked to try chess and loved it. They have now been playing chess for four years.
Katris places the program’s success on Bolduc. “He’s why elementary chess keeps going, with the enthusiasm he creates, the friendly competition — he keeps them going back. This is optional; they don’t have to do it. He’s done something amazing.”
Bolduc, however, is quick to note parents are also vital to the program’s success...
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