Every Thursday Lily B. Clayton Elementary students meet after school to participate in something no other students in the 109 have.
Since its start 15 years ago, the chess club at Lily B. Clayton has been the only one of its kind in Fort Worth Independent School District elementary schools in the 109. Each week students meet in the school library to listen to quick lessons from Lily B. Clayton physical education teacher and chess club leader Timothy Dague. Then they compete against each other in a skillful game of chess.
The club has been a success since the beginning, Dague said. This year, in addition to third-graders, fourth and fifth-graders were also permitted to join. This has increased the clubs members to about 30 students.
However, not just any student can join the chess club. Lily B. Clayton principal Dr. Stephanie Hughes said that the club works as a hook for students to perform well in school.
According to a chess club newsletter, to join the club, students must have passing grades and good conduct in the classroom.
Dague said he believed participation in the chess club has improved the students’ behavior and classroom performance.
“I wish every school had a chess club,” he said. “It’s something that all schools should have because it encourages independence and sportsmanship at such a young age.”
As soon as Mark Hollinger, father of fourth-grader Ethan Hollinger, found out the school had a chess team, he said he encouraged his son to join.
“Chess is different than a video game,” Hollinger said. “You have to actually think strategies in chess rather than just sitting down and playing a game.”
And as his father expected, Ethan said that as soon as he joined chess club, he liked it right away.
“I like chess club because it helps you with math and problem-solving and stuff and you get to be with your friends after school and have conversations,” Ethan said.
Fifth-graders Gustavo Castellanos and Ben Shipman agreed that chess club provides a fun way to hang out with their friends after school, but they also have their own reasons for liking the club.
Gustavo said he enjoyed the chess club because he liked to try to figure out his opponent’s next move, while Ben said he loved the competition and the satisfaction of winning.
Dague said that with all the positive feedback, growing success and student incentives, the Lily B. Clayton chess club has brought, it was troubling that more schools have not started a chess club for their students.
Many of his former students have graduated from Lily B. Clayton to find that their middle school did not have a chess club. A few students told him they were so disappointed that they started a chess club for the school themselves.
Hughes said although she believed more schools should have a chess club, the opportunity for students to participate in extra-curricular activities of any kind was most important.
“It’s important for [the students] to be involved in extra-curricular activities outside of school to see that there’s more out there than just a text book,” she said.
Dague said he also supported student participation in all extra-curricular activities, but still pushes for schools to start a chess club.
The earlier the students start playing chess, the better, he said. Chess club introduces you to learning on all different levels.
“Why not start now?” he said.