David Gamberg is superintendent of two adjacent small school districts on Long Island in New York: Southold and Greenport. Gamberg is devoted to a philosophy of whole-child learning, in which play and a healthy body are as important as academics. He is constantly coming up with new ways to engage children’s imagination and creativity. His schools are alive with music, art, gardening, play, and, now, chess.

The Southold elementary school recently conducted a chess tournament with life-size chess pieces and a chess board. 

According to David Gamberg, superintendent of both the Southold and Greenport school districts, the idea for bringing chess to students was born after the “simple, kind gesture offered to the students at Greenport Schools.”

With no strings attached, Wesley Wang, a 9th grade student at Jericho High School affiliated with CHESSanity, an organization devoted to promote the playing of chess among school-aged children, reached out to Gamberg at Greenport Schools, the superintendent said.

After an exchange of emails, a donation of 24 chess sets and some guidebooks were sent to both Greenport and Southold Elementary Schools.

Since then, two chess clubs were formed, one in each school, and over the past few months, second and third graders in both districts have met for an hour each week to learn the game and hone their skills.

“The skills and dispositions learned by playing this game are invaluable as children start to think strategically and carefully,” Gamberg said.

Wang, of CHESSanity, said the goal was to provide the games to students at no cost to introduce chess to young minds, and to maintain the supply regularly. The organization has donated
chess sets to 20 schools in four school districts in Long Island so far.

“I hope that our little help can have some positive impact upon these children, improve their academic performance, and build their self-esteem,” he said.

Wang said since he and his brother, a college freshman, kicked of the non-profit organization CHESSanity, they have raised more than $35,000 by conducting chess classes every Friday night during the school years and organizing monthly competitive tournaments.

The funds raised have allowed them to give away the free chess sets to districts including Wyandanch, Roosevelt, and Hempstead, benefiting thousands of students.

There are many ways to inspire a love of learning and a desire to achieve one’s personal best. Chess is one of them.

I am reminded of I.S. 318, the New York City public school that has a championship chess team. It was featured in a wonderful film called Brooklyn Castle. You can find it and rent it online. Watch it if you can. It is an inspiring movie about the power of chess to change lives.