In the heat of July, while most kids give their brains a break from school, there is a small classroom tucked away in a corner of Geneva High School where first- through eighth-graders participate in a four-day chess camp.
In between periods of silence, complete with brows furrowed in concentration and exuberant outbursts fuelled by excitement, a father-son team teaches the basic elements and strategy of chess.
Geneva High School English teacher Steve Whitman and his father, Rich Whitman, a retired elementary school teacher from Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, spent Monday through Thursday teaching their students chess strategy.
Steve Whitman said the goal of the camp was to teach kids the basic elements of chess and give the kids a challenge. He pointed out the important, practical applications learned from chess.
“Chess teaches kids about life, challenges, winning and losing,” Steve Whitman said.
Steve Whitman said one of the best parts about teaching chess this week has been challenging the kids to use their brains and watching the “mental mouse wheel” spin.
Ohm Vyas, a seventh-grader attending Geneva Middle School North, said one of the most challenging parts of the game is thinking several moves ahead of an opponent. He also said lessons learned in chess carry over into other situations to help him problem solve.
Rich Whitman has been teaching chess since 1973 and said he had enjoyed teaching with his son. Rich Whitman now teaches chess at the Yury Shulman International Chess School under Grandmaster Yury Shulman, a former Olympic medalist and U.S. champion.
Rich Whitman said he loves watching young kids analyze and think ahead. He said there are “forced moves in chess,” and he loves the way the game applies to real life.
Aidan Cook, 7, from Western Avenue Elementary School, said he enjoys chess because of the skills he learns from it. He said that during the chess camp he learned attacking, forking and even famous game history.
Rich Whitman said he was grateful his son was teaching the camp and had invited him to help.
“The first thing we say to the kids is, 'Why do we play chess?'” Rich Whitman said. “They’ll say, 'We will learn more.'”
“No,” said Rich Whitman. “It’s to have fun.”