Sunrise, Florida Brings Chess to Classrooms
October 3, 2013
SunriseSlide.jpgFor the first time in Broward County history, second and third graders will receive formal chess instruction as part of the school curriculum. The pilot program involves 40 classrooms at Village Elementary, Banyan Elementary and Discovery Elementary and is a collaboration of the School Board of Broward County, the America’s Foundation for Chess “First Move” program and the City of Sunrise Police Department.

“We, as a City, know great schools develop dynamic and innovative students prepared to face modern challenges,” explained City of Sunrise Mayor Michael J. Ryan. “We also understand great schools help build great neighborhoods, which in turn help support businesses and inspire economic development. The Sunrise City Commission is dedicated to finding new and imaginative methods to improve the educational environment in all Sunrise schools.”

The mission of America’s Foundation for Chess is “[t]o integrate chess as a learning tool in our nation’s second and third grade classrooms, in order to have an enduring positive impact on our students’ critical thinking and social skills, and ability to achieve academically.”

According to Kathi Cirar, Program Director of America’s Foundation for Chess, “The First Move curriculum is currently implemented in 24 states involving 82,000 students. Our award winning in-classroom curriculum uses chess as a learning tool to enhance the core curriculum while improving students’ critical thinking and test taking skills. Through this program, students have demonstrated better understanding of math concepts at an earlier age and developed gains in reading and comprehension.”

“What is so compelling about the First Move project,” said Mayor Ryan, “is that even teachers who have never played chess can pick up the curriculum and generate academic gains in their classrooms.” Funding for the program was made available through a grant by America’s Foundation for Chess, with the City of Sunrise Police Department providing additional funds to bring the program to Sunrise schools.

Chess in the educational environment has been the subject of various studies. “Research shows, there is a strong correlation between learning to play chess and academic achievement,” said Wendi Fischer, Scholastic Director of America’s Foundation for Chess. “In 2000, a landmark study found that students who received chess instruction scored significantly higher on all measures of academic achievement, including math, spatial analysis, and non-verbal reasoning ability.”

In addition to First Move, the City of Sunrise and community members have collaborated to promote the academic benefits of chess through other programs: encouraging the development of after-school chess clubs in all schools; providing privately donated chess sets to each Sunrise public school; establishing an “adopt a chess club” program; conducting free City of Sunrise “Champions of Chess” tournaments for students; hosting family fun chess nights at local restaurants; and providing free Saturday morning open chess and instruction at the Sunrise Civic Center for all ages.

“Our collective efforts to introduce chess into the classroom have been enthusiastically welcomed by the participating principals and teachers, as well as students and parents,” said Mayor Ryan. “We believe this pilot program is the first move toward introducing chess into the curriculum at every school in Sunrise.”

For more information about First Move, visit For more information about America’s Foundation for Chess, visit