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A Lifesize Surprise

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Photo Credit: Shinnosuke Taniya ’17

When students return to Thacher from summer break, many aspects of the school are different. Often, there are improvements to the classrooms or renovations to the dorms but one change appeared unexpectedly this year: a giant chessboard appeared in the area between the humanity building and the health center. The chess board is surrounded by two benches and has life size chess pieces to play with.

Over the summer, plans to improve the unsightly concrete area between the humanities building and the health center began.  The idea came from similar chess setups that the planning committee had seen and thought were popular. Mr. Ed Bennett, head of maintenance, stated, “Mr. Mulligan often says that we have 355 days of sun in Ojai! As a result in the past year, we have looked at ways to make the outdoor space we have be more attractive and comfortable to make our campus a place where we can enjoy being outdoors.” The recent addition of Adirondack chairs around campus are part of this initiative.

Students reacted to the new installation with mixed feelings. One student stated, “It’s fun and it’s nice to know [the chessboard] is there. Also, for whatever reason, it’s just better than regular sized chess.” Another student commented, “I haven’t used it or seen anyone else use it. I think it is in an awesome place that could be used for something much better than a chessboard.”

The students that responded negatively to the survey thought that the game board is useless and did not put the space to good use. Some students questioned the funding of the chessboard, which, in their minds, seems superfluous. However, Mr. Bennett stated that the funding was minimal because the concrete was already in place and all of the manual labor was internal. Other negative responses brought up that students do not have enough time to simply enjoy a quick game of chess. One student said, “Honestly, no [students] have time to even read a book for fun, let alone play an oversized game of chess.”

On the other hand, many students enjoy the chessboard, with 48% responding that the game is a good addition to campus. Students that liked the chessboard enjoyed it for various reasons. Many liked it because  it utilizes an awkward space in a fun way. Other students like the chessboard as an art installment or as a fun activity to do with a few free minutes. One student commented, “The chessboard makes campus more interactive,” which was one of the main goals of this project.

Although the chessboard may have elicited mixed responses, one thing is clear: that over knight there was a new game to check out on campus.

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