CASTLE – Italy, Spain, Germany 2014

Alfiere Bianco – A project to bring chess to primary school through school teachers

Name of the project
CASTLE – a Chess curriculum to Advance Students ́ Thinking and Learning skills in primary Education – 2014/2017
Background and what problem the project wanted to solve The work of chess instructors, introduced into the schools as external experts, is the primary mode still existing in the world for starting-up “Chess in Schools” projects. This model, however, is weak in ensuring continuity, because it requires an external cost, and this could lead to poor results in terms of learning and education of pupils in the long term.
Another weakness is that the pedagogical preparation of a teacher and his peculiar knowledge of pupils certainly make the learning environment more favourable, compared to the use of an expert who has’t any relational continuity (over the 5 years of primary) with the class group and who has not received the same quality of pedagogical training. 
Project idea and set-upFrom this awareness comes the whole structure of CASTLE project, which is dynamically aimed at teachers (50), indicating a useful way to transfer to them technical skills so that they can hold chess lessons and program them in their school hours.The tools to provide them, introduced in this project in the five classes of Primary School, in addition to training and the use of chess instructors (20) in the role of tutors, are 1) psychomotricity on the giant chess board, 2) chess “on the school desk” and 3) chess activity on the WEB (Victor’s chess house). The program of courses consists in starting-up 5 first classes and 5 second classes with psychomotricity, 5 third classes with chess on the desk and WEB, the first year and in each country (900 children). The second and third year, each class will slip in the next protocol, which will already have been revised and improved through working groups composed of teachers and tutors.The peculiarity of the project is the capacity to provide all the information the world of school, in order to transform education through a more active use of the intelligence of children. Partners: the University of Turin (Prof. Trinchero), with the help of appropriate measurement tools provided by the Education ministries in two countries (Italy and Spain), plus “Alfiere Bianco” in Italy, “Deutsche Schulschachstiftung” (German Foundation Chess in Schools) in Germany, “Club Ajedrez 64 Villalba” in Spain and a school in each country. FIDE as stakeholder. 
Autumn 2014Intellectual production of all the tools – first level
Winter 2015First training event for theachers in each country, pre test and pre observations
Spring 2015First experimentation of the tools in classrooms, followed by working groups (teachers and tutors) every 2 weeks to improve them
Summer /Autumn2015Writing of first year tools reviewed with teachers and improved. Intellectual production of all the tools – second level
Winter 2016Second training event for theachers in each country
Spring 2016 Second experimentation of the tools in classrooms, followed by working groups (teachers and tutors) every 2 weeks to improve them
Summer/Autumn 2016Writing of second year tools reviewed with teachers and improved. Intellectual production of all the tools – third level
Winter 2017Third training event for theachers in each country. Third experimentation of the tools in classrooms, followed by working groups (teachers and tutors) every 2 weeks to improve them
Spring/Summer 2017 Post test and post observation in all classes. Final production of Outputs (tools and research). Three final conferences, one per country, to present the results
Finances for the project and how the project leaders managed to receive itErasmus + program granted the project with € 240.000, with a co-financing of about 10,000 from the partners, and as many from FIDE (for the production of the videos).Alfiere Bianco, as administrative leader, provided the financing tranches to the partners through a budget check carried out every year. Erasmus + requested a bank guarantee of € 197,000, sent three annual installments during 2014/2017 and paid the final bill (20 percent final) in February 2018.
ResultsThe results of the research were very positive: in the giant chessboard activity, the children of the experimental group improved their psychomotor skills more than the control group on all the items detected with an external observer, while in the logical-mathematical and metacognitive areas results have been undoubtedly positive, though with the gap between experimental and control classes not always so obvious. As regards the questionnaires submitted to the teachers relating to the project’s impact on their professionalization, they were fully satisfied with the activities of the CASTLE Project, and confirmed (in 88% of cases) the practicality of transferring the skills they had gained on to their colleagues and, above all, the perception of a “benefit” for students, in respect of the following dimensions: classroom climate; peer collaboration; participation and involvement of all students; cross-competency development.Finally CASTLE wants to be a help in changing the education policies of the states, in full compliance with the European Parliament Declaration of 15/03/2012, which calls for the introduction of “Chess in Schools” in the education systems of the Member States, suggesting an easy-to- use template, specially created and tested with precision (over 5,000 measurement tools compiled and analyzed in three years) without any external experts and which can be disseminated independently by the schools, not only internally but also to other schools.
2018 – Recognition of CASTLE as “Success Story” by the European Commission
Reflections, problems faced and advice for the futureThe German ministry of education did not give permission to administer the tests to children, a problem that arose during the project which was not heard of in the planning phase. In general, there is a certain hostility on the part of chess instructors in promoting the introduction of chess at school through school teachers, but we believe that it is a way to go.
ContactAlessandro Dominici +39 3932277051