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School Notes: It’s all in the cards
by Jessica Garcia
Sep 06, 2009 | 2258 views | 1 1 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alexis Jones may be one of those rare students who thinks using the brain is cool. Jones will get another opportunity to put on her thinking cap this year and convince others to do the same as team captain of this year’s Shaw Middle School’s bridge team.

The eighth grade student will help recruit new card players and persuade them that playing bridge is a positive experience.

“I like how you have to use your brain and think about what you’re going to play and anticipate other people’s moves and how you’re going to meet new people,” Jones said.

Through Jones and other students, the non-profit Reno Youth Bridge, Inc. is enlisting new students to play the contract bridge card game as an after-school activity that fosters math and social skills.

Bridge is a four-player card game in which two players form a partnership and sit opposite each other at the table. Each player gets a hand of 13 cards. Through a series of bidding in which partners communicate with each other, players try to win the most tricks, or rounds of play, according to suits or trumps and thus earn the highest score. Players are limited to 15 words or phrases they can use to talk to each other. The game requires trust, inferential reasoning and problem solving.

According to Bud Brewer, managing director of Reno Youth Bridge, the game was invented more than 150 years ago and requires good math skills. By the 1930s, more than 30 million Americans were playing the game, he added.

Brewer has played bridge for 61 years.

“Bridge is the perfect exercise for challenging the brain,” Brewer said. “The fun of the game is making inferences.”

Brewer shared an anecdote that businessman Warren Buffett once said he wouldn’t mind going to jail if he had bridge to play with three other people.

The local club is hosting various try-outs on different school sites, with middle schools being the target for individual team formations, although the term “try-outs” is fairly loose and some high school campuses may choose to get involved, as well. Students will be chosen based on their interest and a teacher’s recommendation as to whether they believe the student can commit to the team. Teams meet at least once a week through the school year and have access to an online program to play each other and refine their skills outside their scheduled meetings. They can also participate in tournaments.

Ideally, RYB would like to have 16 students per team.

“Our desire is to bring every school into the program,” Brewer said.

Shaw principal Dave Fullenwider supports the program because although it’s typically an activity for seniors, it can engage those of all ages.

“We always think of bridge as being for old people,” Fullenwider said. “This Reno Youth Bridge recognizes that. They all look like me with white hair or no hair and it’s important to recruit young people if they want to keep it going. I see it as a really good activity for kids this age.”

Fullenwider admitted that he doesn’t know how to play the game himself.

“I know it requires a higher level of thinking, it requires teamwork and cooperation,” he said. “Those are things that carry into adult life and it’s a socialization process. I think the students (last year) really enjoyed it and I think it sharpens their skills.”

Research shows there is a correlation between bridge and student achievement. Dr. Christopher Shaw of Carlinville, Ill. analyzed six groups of fifth graders who had similar academic skills and one group learned to play bridge as part of its math curriculum. The other five groups did not learn how to play. After taking a standardized test, the one group that did play bridge eventually scored higher on reading, math, social studies, language and science tests.

Kathy Lane, president of RYB, said the students are quick to learn the game.

“When they’re newbies, they don’t have a clue about it,” she said. “We need a cheerleader (like Jones) to help them.”

Lane said entrepreneur Bill Gates once commented that bridge was the only game that couldn’t be mastered by a computer. It can also fight off Alzheimer’s disease, Brewer said.

She said the typical bridge student is well-rounded.

“They have interests in academics, competition and they’re not football players,” she said. “They have diverse interests.”

Tryouts will go on through the month.

Brewer and Lane are also excited that the American Contract Bridge League, which supports educational opportunities for players to learn bridge, will have its national championship at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno in March 2010. They hope to speak with ACBL officials to provide a section for the students to play.

RYB is a non-profit organization that invites donations. Brewer said it costs about $1,000 to set up a team at school for the equipment, bridge playing cards, carrier, case and other items. T-shirts will also be made for the students with their school insignia on them.

For more information about Reno Youth Bridge, contact Brewer at

Editor's note: School Notes is a new weekly feature highlighting the positive news of Sparks schools that will appear in the Sparks Tribune on Mondays.
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September 08, 2009
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