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Teaching Go With the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis

For release: January 14, 2014
For press information, contact Jay Jayaraman or Riki Jackson, 901-678-2595

The Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis (CIUM) hosted its annual Chinese Summer Immersion camp this past June, and this year the schedule included a series of classes on the ancient game of Go. Go is a board game for two players that originated in China more than 2,500 years ago. The game is noted for being rich in strategy despite its relatively simple rules. To date, there are over 40 million Go players worldwide. The CIUM approached the University of Memphis Go club earlier this year for help in adding introductory instruction in Go to the program curriculum.

The University of Memphis Go Club is sponsored by the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis (CIUM). The CIUM is the meeting place for the U of M Go club and it is where the club plays, studies, and gives free lectures on the game and its history to members of the greater Mid-South the community.

The pilot Go classes for Chinese summer camp included approximately 20 students aged from five to eleven. “I was a bit nervous about the prospect of losing the attention of the students by presenting the game too complexly, so I did some additional research by reading and reviewing Yasuda Yasutoshi's book, Capture Go, an elegant yet simplified introduction to the game,” noted Jay Jayaraman, president of the University of Memphis Go club. “I was quite interested by the testimonials I found, but I was admittedly doubtful that it would spark a continuing interest in all but a few kids,” stated Jay. “I also asked local players if any would be interested in helping to coach over the week or just come in to play an exhibition game. I was able to enlist the amazing help of Wade Humbert, a wonderful Go player who attends White Station High School in Memphis.”

“The day before the camp started an email was sent to parents, giving them some information about the game and the developmental benefits of learning Go amongst young children and encouraging parental involvement. This helped to ensure parents were a part of the learning process as well,” explained Jay. “Watching a room full of children play Go within 30 minutes of first hearing about the game was quite a treat,” explained Jay. “Within a few games there was a noticeable difference in the atmosphere amongst the students. Unrelated conversations had been naturally replaced with discussions about possible moves and rules. At the end of the first day, we were surprised to see that the kids were very excited about the homework problems. The final day was a tournament for the campers. The tournament rankings were combined with the campers' daily homework scores to find the top finishers. The prizes they received included multiple volumes of Hikaru No Go, and a 19x19 Go set. It was a joy to watch their progress and enthusiasm for the game of Go! We look forward to participating again next year.”

The CIUM is committed to adding Go classes as a part of their Chinese language and cultural program to 50 plus partner schools across Tennessee. The game of Go fits nicely with the CIUM’s commitment to providing world-class curriculum that develops higher-order thinking skills as it relates to second language acquisition and strategic thinking. One of the goals of the University of Memphis Go club is to bring Go to an even wider audience in our community and have fun while we doing it.

The CIUM will be teaching Chinese language and culture in 46 public, private, charter, and parochial schools this fall,” remarked Dr. Hsiang-te Kung, director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis and 75th direct descendant of Confucius. “We are very pleased to infuse Go as a part of the Chinese culture in our schools across the state.”

For additional information about the University of Memphis Go club or the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis, please contact Jay Jayaraman or Riki Jackson at 901-678-3166 or visit the CIUM web site at www.memphis.edu/cium

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Last Updated: 2/10/14