Elite socks. Beats headphones. Chromecast. An organized locker.
All great ideas, but none match the middle school psyche as well as the ancient game of chess. Yes, that’s right—chess.
The origins of the game can be traced back to India some 1,500 years ago. Comprised of 32 pieces (16 on a side), chess is an intricate game of both short-term and long-term strategy. The successful player launches into a game with an overall strategy, yet must adjust—or sometimes completely abandon—that strategy depending on the moves of the opponent. Adopting a new strategy, playing the game move-by-move, or simply acting defensively may all be in order depending on how the game evolves.
If you think about it, the skills involved in navigating the game of chess are the same skills that pre-teens and adolescents are developing.
Long-term strategy. Responding to events on the ground. Shifting goals and ideas. Resiliency. Managing the various directions that all 32 pieces might travel. All of these notions needed to be successful in the game of chess are also needed to successfully navigate the middle school landscape. In other words, the type of thinking needed in a game of chess is the exact type of thinking we ought to be fostering in our children. The most important of these skills may be the concept of awareness; allowing your mind to be open to new possibilities—within the context of the game board—may make all the difference. Play chess with your child. It the easiest teaching of sound habits you can do without notice.
No matter your celebrations during this holiday season, considering purchasing the ostensibly simple game of chess for your middle schooler. A wooden one for good measure. Fifteen dollars this holiday season may have a return of lifetime.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a vigorous, meaningful and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.