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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | NEWBURY PARK

Giant Chess Board Makes Learning Fun

April 21, 1999|MICHAEL GOTTLIEB

More than 100 students moved pawns, bishops and knights in a giant game of chess played Tuesday on the playground of Walnut Elementary School.

The giant chessboard was painted by volunteers from companies at the Thousand Oaks Auto Mall.

Two groups of students--a white team and a black team--moved the 3-foot-tall pieces around the board, surrounded by a crowd of students cheering and yelling out potential moves. Meanwhile, other groups of students were paired off playing games of chess on normal-sized boards.

The school has recently begun participating in the Academic Chess program, which has swept through a number of Conejo Valley schools, including Lang Ranch, Madrona, Cypress, Park Oaks, Weathersfield, University and Conejo. The program, directed by Kate Keeler, teaches children not only chess, but also how to be critical thinkers, plan strategy, be part of a team and be good sports.

Principal Sheila Carlson said every one of about 500 students in the school now knows how to play chess.

In the end, the white team won, grinding the black team down before finally capturing its king.

Steve Honig, chair of the charitable contributions committee for the auto mall, said creating the board was one of a number of school programs the group sponsors. He was amazed to see children so excited about playing chess.

"If they can learn strategy at this age, just think what the future will hold for them," he said.

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