Kevin Monroe, 9, and Evan Bean, 10, stare intently at the pieces on a chess table. Kevin moves a pawn and looks at Evan. “You can do whatever you want to do now…” he says.
“I know what I won’t do,” says Evan, as he slides a piece to a green space.
The two cousins are just two of many children attending Kairos Services’ Kamp KSI summer camp. A nonprofit that works to help people become self-sufficient through employment, Kairos is committed to unlocking children’s global competencies by teaching children ages 6 to12 various disciplines to foster critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.
“It’s important that we prepare our children for the future, and that includes engaging them in activities and disciplines that not only challenge them, but are interesting to them,” said Herbert Lester, Kairos executive director.
Kamp KSI focuses on golf, yoga, Spanish and possibly the most critical, chess.
Commonly known as a “thinking man’s game,” chess is working its way into classroom curriculum, instead of only serving as an extracurricular activity. A recent study found the game “improves cognitive abilities, coping and problem-solving capacity, and even socioaffective development of children and adolescents who practice it.”
Leroy Johnson, a Knights of the Squaretable chess coach, has been working with children at Kamp KSI for two years.
“It has been documented through research that chess enhances children’s creativity, their analytical skills, their planning skills,” said Johnson. “It’s not a game like checkers, where you just push pieces. It’s strategic and tactical.”
It’s not uncommon for a game to last over an hour, but the 6-to-12 year-olds don’t seem to mind, picking up games even after the camp day is complete.
“Once they learn how the pieces all operate and play a part in the game, that’s the excitement that they grasp,” said Johnson.
“The thing that I like about chess is it’s a thinking game,” said Evan. “You really have to concentrate.”
After Kevin won a chess set at camp last year, he introduced his cousin to the game. Now they play in their spare time, learning new moves and strategies. “I really like practicing to beat him,” he says.
Noting that chess teaches integrity and decision-making skills, Johnson said, “It’s a life-training game.”
(For more information on Kairos Services, visit www.kairosmemphis.org.)