Idaho is piloting a unique program where its 40,000 second and third graders learn the game of chess as part of curriculum enhancement that includes vocabulary, math, and history. The curriculum was designed by Seattle-based America's Foundation for Chess, a non-profit organization that promotes teaching chess in schools.
Chess is taught to students by their classroom teachers, many of whom have never played chess before. The teachers are trained in a seminar before the start of school, are provided with an instructional DVD and DVD player, chess sets and boards, and a manual. Most importantly, they are also given a collection of online resources and access, again oftentimes online since there are many rural communities in Idaho, to an experienced chess player.
The program is beneficial to students who spend much of their time plugged into electronic devices and insular. Chess also teaches students how to think and plan ahead, a skill that departs from traditional rote memorization. Additionally, students with whom English is not a first language benefit from the connections that occur at the chess board.