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On Chess: What does the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis do to expand its audience?

Kids crowd a chess board at the announcement of the Ferguson-Florissant schools program.
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Schools are key to so much, including chess. As one of the first full-time chess teachers for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, I strongly believe in using chess in the classroom to provide positive learning experiences for students. It also helps develop their spatial reasoning, memory and organizational thought processes.

Through work alongside the World Chess Hall of Fame, chess has served as a vehicle to explore diverse areas of art, history, music and modern culture. The Chess Club provide opportunities for people of all ages from our first 3-year old who is regularly attending weekly kids’ classes and seniors who are still learning. Just this past year, the scholastic program and mission of the Chess Club has expanded twofold.

The new efforts include:

  • Community center programming
  • Football spring training featuring chess programs for members of the Urban Athletic Conference
  • Bi-monthly Boy Scout Merit Badge events
  • Two chess pocket parks - one of which recently opened in Forest Park

This is in addition to existing school programs and summer camps and participation in various activities such as the Lego-Robotic Convention. Support comes from the Demetrious Johnson Foundation, Boys and Girls Club, the Missouri Botanical Gardens and more.

What is funding this nonprofit you may ask? A corporate challenge program has helped fund programs throughout urban schools in north St. Louis, including the Ferguson-Florissant School District as well as the Jennings and Normandy districts. The goal of the program is to provide chess in all schools throughout urban St. Louis. Corporate dollars allow us to fund those who need it most in under-served areas throughout the area.

Just recently, the Chess Club hosted a chess teacher training program, supported by the Monsanto Fund. In addition to intensive training, the program provides equipment and resources for sustainable chess programs throughout rural Missouri and Illinois. Fourteen teachers participated in the program from Chillicothe, Cape Girardeau, Ste. Genevieve, Westphalia and Winfield in Missouri; and Smithton and Freeburg in Illinois.

Now, people of all backgrounds and lifestyles are seeing chess everywhere they look. From the grade school classrooms to the television sets in your own home and now established at Forest Park, chess is surrounding the St. Louis area and it is here to stay. 

Bill Thompson was one of the first full-time chess teachers for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. To learn more and the chess programs in schools, contact Lauren Stewart at lauren.stewart@worldchesshof.org or 314-795-8829.