Kids ex­cited to play gi­ant chess

5 Montes­sori stu­dents in chess club take out­door board for test run

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By Spencer Lahr Staff Writer

As she stood look­ing over the 12-by-12-foot board, strate­giz­ing the move­ments of the gi­ant chess pieces with her two team­mates, 10-yearold Ans­ley Combs de­ter­mined that she had never played the game like this be­fore.

Combs is a fifth-grader at the Montes­sori School of Rome. On Monday, she and four other chess club mem­bers got to test their skills in a match on the new out­door chess board at the school.

The five stu­dents were split into teams — three against two. They walked amongst pawns, rooks and knights, step­ping from square to square to swipe a piece off the board or to make a sim­ple move that was part of a greater plan. The stu­dents col­lab­o­rated on their de­ci­sions, lean­ing in close to share thoughts with their part­ners.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Ronik Pa­tel, a first­grader, while stand­ing next to chess pieces that peaked at or above his knees.

Combs said she felt much more in­volved, like she was in the game.

Shemi Ku­mar, the head of the school, said there will be some in­tro­duc­tion to chess classes for other stu­dents, and the board will be open for play dur­ing re­cess. Chess teaches

‘I think it’s pretty cool.’ Ronik Pa­tel first-grader at Montes­sori School of Rome

kids to think three to four steps ahead, push­ing them to de­lib­er­ate more on what they will do next, she ex­plained.

Ku­mar said the space also will be used as an out­door class­room, to put stu­dents out into the en­vi­ron­ment they are learn­ing about. Some­thing that has an ever-in­creas­ing im­por­tance as the won­der of be­ing out­side is disappearing in the dig­i­tal age, she con­tin­ued.

The school has wanted to de­velop such an in­ter­ac­tive place for stu­dents for three to four years, Ku­mar said, and the ef­fort picked up steam with the fi­nan­cial sup­port of the school’s boost­ers, who are like a “lit­tle PTA arm.”

Beth Du­nay, a Montes­sori par­ent and an ar­chi­tect for ED De­sign, which she owns, vol­un­teered to see the project through from de­sign to com­ple­tion.

Eric McJunkin said work­ers with his com­pany, McJunkin Lawn Care & Land­scap­ing, fol­lowed Du­nay’s plan and had it put to­gether in about a week. The cir­cu­lar space has a di­am­e­ter of 20 feet. Re­tain­ing wall blocks were used for the two sec­tions of bench seat­ing that curve around the board.

The board is made up of step­ping stones for each of the 64 squares. Astroturf car­pet acts as the walk­ing space out­side of

the board. Mondo grass fills the spa­ces be­tween the step­ping stones, and it gives the space a cleaner look and keeps the tiles in­tact, McJunkin said.

The space hasn’t been opened up for daily use be­cause the grass still needs more time to ac­cli­mate, McJunkin said.

Montes­sori School of Rome stu­dents Ronik Pa­tel (from right), 6, Ans­ley Combs, 10, and Banks Brown, 8, play a game of chess on the school’s new out­door board.

Rome News-Tri­bune

Montes­sori School of Rome stu­dent Ans­ley Combs, 10, moves a chess piece on the school’s new out­door chess­board, while Eric McJunkin, owner of McJunkin Lawn Care &

Land­scap­ing, watches. McJunkin’s com­pany built the chess board and the sur­round­ing wall and seat­ing area, and this week he got to watch it be put to good use.

Rome News-Tri­bune

Zack Lester, 11, moves a chess piece while his part­ner Charl Glover (far left), 7, looks on at the school’s out­door board. Op­po­nent Banks Brown (far right), 8, peeks to see what Lester will do, and Eric McJunkin, whose land­scap­ing com­pany built the board, watches.

Spencer Lahr / Rome News-Tri­bune

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