At Park Oaks Elementary School, the Academic Chess program is teaching students how to play the game and how to love it.
The eight-week after-school program, which started this year at Park Oaks, teaches students the basics of chess, like how to set up the board, how to move pieces, as well as more complicated aspects of the game, including opening strategies, game analysis and tournament etiquette.
The Academic Chess program was started in 1994 by Eric Hicks, a high school dropout who found the confidence to go back to school and attend college by playing chess. Since then, the program has been used in more than 150 schools. The program is also being taught at Walnut, Madrona, Cypress and Lang Ranch elementary schools.
"It's amazing how much kids get from playing chess," said Kate Keeler, a Southern California women's chess champion who directs the program at Park Oaks.
It helps children learn and develop critical thinking, decision making, planning, good sportsmanship, self esteem and even helps children with disabilities such as attention deficit disorder, she said.
Keeler said chess is a game that all children can play no matter what their skill level.