Idlewild Elementary Chess Team Making All The Right Moves

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 11:04 PM CDT|Updated: May. 26, 2023 at 11:06 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - More than 2100 students from 38 states competed recently in the National Elementary Chess tournament. Among the top teams who brought home trophies: Memphis’ own Idlewild Elementary.

17 Idlewild students ranging in age from kindergarten to 5th grade spent Mother’s Day weekend in Baltimore, Maryland proving the kids from Memphis don’t bluff when it comes to chess. And as it turns out, they’re pretty good at math and robotics, too.

When Action News 5 visited the school, members of the Idlewild Elementary chess team posed for pictures with all the hardware they picked up at the championship.

“We won 7th place out of a lot of schools,” said chess team member Kylus.

His giant smile said it all. The long hours spent in the gym practicing paid off for the Idlewild Eagles. Their 3rd thru 5th-grade squad placed 14th. The 2nd and 3rd-grade teams placed 7th. The kindergarten group placed 2nd with individual students placing 2nd and 14th overall.

Kylus said his grandfather got him interested in chess.” Like when I started, the first thing I wanted to do is beat him…always. It was only recently when I first beat him. It was like a month ago and it was a big joy. Lotta joy,” he said. Idlewild’s optional program helped Kylus and the other students develop chess skills and more. His teammate Marilla is also on the robotics and math teams.” I just find it fun to work out problems,” she said, “and it’s challenging to me and my brain, which I love.”

After flying home from the chess tournament, four of the third graders competed the next day in the National Perennial Math Championship and placed 5th in the country. “To me, it’s a testament to the work our teachers do every single day,” said Assistant Principal Bill Shuman, “and all students get to participate in our programming here. They come from all parts of the city because of our optional program and that just makes for such a rich and diverse experience.”

Principal Kiersten Schnacke said their students also won big when the state of Tennessee this month designated Idlewild as an official STE(A)M school: science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

The award comes with a $35,000 dollar prize, which Schnacke said will be used to enhance their STE(A)M programs. Because just like the chess team, Idlewild Elementary is making all the right moves.”That’s what I think is special about Idlewild, we’ve created multiple opportunities for students to find something that they feel a part of, that they really enjoy doing, and that really makes them love the classroom even more,” said Schnacke.

Two other MSCS schools received the STE(A)M designation and monetary award this year: University Middle and Middle College.

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