Iwamoto Awards

Play Go - Train the Brain

Name:Play Go - Train the Brain
Contributor:Mirjana Rašić Mitić
Start:2018-09-01
Organisation:
Edition:2018

Project Description

I have known the basic rules of Go for almost 30 years, since the EGC in Niš in 1989. I am not a Go player, but I am a great fan of this magical game. I am a teacher of mathematics and computer science in the elementary school “Sv. Sava” in Niš and the winner of the “Best Educators of Serbia” award for 2015.

I recognised that Go influences the mental activities in children at two levels: intellectual and creative, developing their logical and creative thinking, rationality, strategic skills and encouraging youth cooperation based on mutual respect and tolerance.

Go is an excellent tool to train youngsters how to deal with various scientific disciplines, by using strategy and tactics learned from Go, as well as expressed intuition and feeling, subtlety and intellectual depth, developed through an unlimited number of Go combinations.
However, as an official sport discipline in Serbia, Go is not yet known among the children, parents, teachers in schools and teachers in other institutions.

A few years ago, I approached Go friends with an idea to help them promote Go among children. The plan was to organise a specific Go clinic, mostly for children in my school. We prepared a project named “Play Go – Train the Brain”, with all necessary elements proposed by Go teachers in Go Club “Pro Go”.
The kickoff of the project was in september 2015. The target group were children in the  fifth grade (12 years old) and younger. The plan was to teach them to play Go through three basic levels, to conduct categorisation tournaments and appear at the European Youth Go Championships (EYGC) 2016 with the best Go students in the Under16 and Under12 categories.

And we did it! For the first time in Serbian Go history we had more than ten children in the EYGC! They were the best children in our first Go school.
They were officially registered by the EGF, according to their achieved results during the project and in various tournaments.
A very important observation for me was that the children also achieved better results in school than they did before joining the Go project.

Encouraged by these results, I decided to continue with that project on a higher level, and try to include new players from existing Go community and to increase awareness of responsible local, regional and state interested parties. My Go friends from Niš will again help me.

Starting from June 2016, we now have our project entering the third year of Go dissemination and the spread of its positive effects on children and youth. I now have new partners: the Regional Centre for Education in Niš (RC) and the Centre for the Promotion of Science (CPN) in Belgrade. Thanks to their support, we could provide the necessary infrastructure for 40 Go students at a time (classroom, Go sets, demo-board and Internet connections).

I submitted a new proposal for the 3rd  phase of the project to the Centre for the Promotion of Science in Belgrade (CPN). Since then, I have received the answer that they have adopted my project proposal! This gives a new dimension to my further efforts for Go dissemination on an even larger scale.

First Project Phase: Classroom (October 2016)
First Project Phase: Classroom (October 2016)
First Project Phase: Japanese Embassy visit (October 2016)
First Project Phase: Japanese Embassy visit (October 2016)
First Project Phase: Opening Ceremony (October 2016)
First Project Phase: Opening Ceremony (October 2016)
My Go pupils in Team Serbia during the EYGC 2016
My Go pupils in Team Serbia during the EYGC 2016
Pupils from the Go school during their first tournament
Pupils from the Go school during their first tournament

Aim of the Project

The aim of the project has several points:

  1. Promoting and disseminating Go among children, as a tool for development of intellectual abilities, strategic skills for solving problems, persistence and logical thinking, as well as the ability to creatively approach scientific ideas.
  2. Developing features of assertiveness, tolerance and sporting spirit in children.
  3. Educating teachers to understand Go and organise Go sections in their schools.  
  4. Training children to participate in individual and team oriented junior Go competitions in the country and abroad, according to GOSS and EGF programs.
  5. Increasing digital competence of children through their active participation in Internet Go events (tournaments or individual games with humans or bots) through Go servers.
  6. Publishing a brochure "Play Go – Train the Brain“.
  7. Networking with Go clubs in Serbia and neighbouring countries, participate and exchange programs and projects.

The two main target groups consist of children and teachers in Niš' primary and secondary schools.

Near the Regional Centre for Education in Niš (RC), there are several large primary schools and their pupils and teachers will be our prime target in the beginning of the next project phase. The number of participants in each group is limited to 50, due to the available project infrastructure. Combined with the expected number of virtual participants, the total estimated number of project participants is at least 150.

Location

The address for the realisation of "Play Go - Train the Brain" is the Scientific Club in the Regional Centre in Niš (RC), which is the official implementation partner in the project. Depending on needs and other conditions, some of the activities are organised in other premises and clubs. For example, the Serbian Junior Champioship will be organised in the Niš Univesity Library, and the Sretenje Tournament is scheduled in the venue of Go club Pro Go. 
The RC is located near the school “St. Sava” and children can easily visit to participate in the Go lessons. 
Effects of the project activities will be seen in regular reports in the media and posted on our official Internet pages. Please see Public Exposure below.

Timeline

The 3rd phase of the Project officially starts in September 2018. and lasts till the end of March 2019.

Similar to previous phases, the three basic pillars of the project timeline are:

  • The project practically starts with the Serbian Youth Championship, in August/September 2018.
  • Participants categorisation in the "Sretenje Children tournament 2019“ (Sretenje = Serbian holiday, meeting of old and new players from Niš), February 2019.
  • The project ends with the Go students' participation in the NIŠ OPEN Go Tournament, in March 2019.

Finally, I will make an evaluation of the project, together with my partners, and share it with all interested parties.

According to the project proposal for the 3rd  phase, which has recently been approved by the responsible authorities in the Centre for Science Promotion in Belgrade, our main timeline covers:

  • Presentation and kickoff of the project, scheduled for the second half of September 2018.
  • Participation in the Junior Go Championship in Niš, October 2018.
  • Three parallel project activities (2h/week, 4 weeks/3 months):
    • Go lessons for beginners.
    • Advanced Go lessons for children who passed previous phases of the project.
    • Lessons how to use IT resources to play Go online, using Go servers on the Internet. Participants will learn to play with bots and/or human beings (October – December 2018).
  • Go education for teachers will be organised on-site in RC, or online through Skype or other available means of communication. They should be future organisers and Go teachers in their schools, with active support of the project members. The education also covers their training for playing through Go servers (October – December 2018).
  • Publishing and promoting a brochure: “Play Go - Train the brain” (November 2018).
  • Go students' participation in Serbian individual and team championships. Participants will be organised in 3-4 teams, which will compete individually, with support of experienced members of Go club Pro Go (According to GOSS agenda).
  • Final ranking of Go students during the New Year's tournament in RC or in the "Sv. Sava“ school (End of December 2018).
  • Go school during winter school holidays for those who want to achieve good results in upcoming tournaments, and newcomers who want to join the project (January - February 2019).
  • Organisation of the children's tournament Sretenje 2018 (February 2019).
  • Participation in the International Go Tournament NIŠ OPEN 2018 (March 2019).
  • Evaluation of the project and submitting reports (end of March 2019).

Means of the Project

The project has the following infrastructure:

  • A classroom in the Scientific Club in the Regional Centre Niš, with a capacity of 15 -20 tables. The classroom is equiped with Internet, Wi-Fi, PC & beamer.
  • 15 plastic Go sets (convex stones, flat on one side) with plastified cartoon boards.
  • One magnetic Go demonstratrion board.

In case of a need for Go equipment, we can borrow it from Niš or from other Go clubs in Serbia.
The educational/training methods are based on EGF principles and adopted techniques. Go literature, tutorials and other online available sources have been used by Go teachers in my project team.

My position in RC, CPN and other educational organisations helps me to use different networks to promote my project.
Also, there are several local and central media sources (TV, radio, online pages) that are always ready to give me support in the project.

Results

Main results of the project, so far, are:

  • More than 200 children passed through various stages of the project's activities.
  • Necessarry Go equipment for basic work on the project has been purchased.
  • Basic funds were provided for the participation of the best Go players from the project in significant Go competitions.
  • Increased interest of the parents in involving their children in competitive Go activities through different means of tournaments.
  • More teachers are interested to learn Go.
  • The presence of Go in the media has signifficantly increased.
  • We have expanded the idea of introducing Go to schools in other cities.

I hope that the results of the next phase of the project will also contribute to diverting our community's attention to the importance that Go can have for the intellectual development of children.

Human Resources

Our technical staff is covered by three experienced Go teachers from Go club Pro Go: as trainers Mladen Lilić, Željko Veselinović and Dragan Ilić have been official members of the Project from its inception. They are engaged in the project as volunteers.

Željko Veselinović (born in 1951) has been playing Go since 1970. His top ranking was 2 dan. He is one of the founders and long-time president of the UGK Student Organisation and an active participant in all competitions in the territory of the SFRY and Serbia. He is the president of GOSS and GOSJ in several mandates. He was also the organiser of the European Go Championship in Niš in 1989. He participated in the World Championship in Japan in 1990, as captain of the European team. He is the founding father of Go Club Pro Go. He provided and equiped the premises for the activities of the Niš Go clubs and was the first to start organising different Go schools in Niš and other towns. He conducted the first cycle of Go school in elementary school "UčiteljTasa" in 2012-2013. Mladen Lilić and Dragan Ilić were his Go students in the 90's. He is the oldest active Go play in Serbia. During almost 50 years of Go activities, he educated and trained hundreds of Go players.

He initiated and managed the foundation of Go clubs in Subotica, Ohrid (Macedonia) and Zelenkovac (Bosnia). He also has an initiative to reactivate all Go clubs in the Western Balkans through a specific means of cross-border Go projects.

Mladen Lilić (born in 1980 in Niš) works at Law-Business School as a professor of an economic group of subjects. He plays Go since 1991. His ranking is around 1 dan. He has participated in more than 100 tournaments in the country and abroad, including the state Youth and Senior championships, as well as the 1998 European Go Cup in Romania.
In recent years, he has been actively working to promote Go as a coach of young Go students within the project. Since 2016, he has been the leading teacher  for about 50 participants. Through several levels of selection, he formed a team of 11 young players who participated in the EYGC 2016 in the national team of Serbia. He has been coaching our juniors for individual and team competitions. He is active on Go servers and instructs Go students on how to play online Go with bots and humans.

Dragan Ilić (born in 1973) started playing Go in 1990. He is one of the most competent organisers and Go coaches in Serbia. His top ranking was 1 dan. He was president of the Niš Go club Student for many years, as well as secretary of exYu Go Ass. He is currently the director of Go club Pro Go.
He participated in a number of international Go events, i.e. the Go congesses in Mamaja and Berlin. He is the main technical organiser of the NIŠ OPEN tournament and the media promoter through Internet and classical media.
Within the project, his main responsibility is to teach children to play Go with bots. His children also play Go. He assisted in the foundation of Go activities in Subotica and Ohrid (Macedonia). He provided technical support for the EYGC in Palić in 2016.

Financial Resources

Generally, the project started without any financial resources from outside. The main funders were the members of Go club Pro Go and the children´s parents (travelling and lodging  costs).

Since 2016, the project has been partially financed by CPN Belgrade, including sponsorships in goods (prizes, medals, refreshments, etc.). The Go teachers have been self-financed during the duration of the project.

The project has had the additional financial support from two families from the USA (family Petrović) and Canada (family Veljković).

The main technical supporter of our project activities has been Željko Veselinović, who enabled the free and unlimited use of a private facility for the needs of the project, as well as all necessary Go infrastructure.

Exposure

From the very beginning of the Project, when we first started the Go lessons in my school, my team has been trying to draw public attention to planned and realised project activities in all available media.
The Internet is the medium through which we quickly transmit information about the project and inform the public about new activities. Almost all information about my project can be found on the Facebook page of Go club Pro Go.

I have noticed that different reports, announcements and other information on project events, posted on that page, have a significant number of views, likes, shares etc. It means that our Go activities have attracted public attention beyond the expected domain!

I have been editing the blog https://matishzasvakog.wordpress.com/. There, I also promote the idea of playing Go. 

The largest marketing and media success of the project was the Round Table, organised during the NIŠ OPEN 2018 Tournament. Speakers of our Round Table were eminent representatives of the following institutions: MENSA Serbia, MISANU (Mathematical Institute of Serbian Academy and Science), EGF and Medical Faculty of Niš. Mrs. Jana Hricova, vice-president of the EGF, provided an introductory speech. For more information on our Round Table, please visit the link:
https://www.facebook.com/goklub/videos/176793659629691/

A list of links to media that reported on the project's activities, is attached in the Additonal Comments section. Thanks to them, information on our project activities have been visible not only in Niš, but also in other parts of Serbia.

I have been invited several times to organise lectures on Go and suitable Go promotions and demonstrations during summer seminars and camps for young mathematicians and other scientific talents. For such promotions, I always had a great help from my friends from Go Club "Pro Go" in Niš.

Perspective

The main outcome of the third phase of the project is to introduce Go to a number of primary and secondary schools in Niš and other towns in Serbia, to network school Go sections and organise their competitions, both through classical tournaments and online.

Further development of Go in that direction requires involvement of relevant interested parties which are in a position to provide necessary support needed to maintain such a large infrastructure. But that would be the subject of some other Go project.

Wishes

The greatest wish I have is that one day Go becomes an elective subject in lower grades of elementary schools, as a tool for children´s intelligence development. This is also expressed in the title of my project: "Play Go - Train the Brain" or in Serbian: "Igraj Go – Razvijaj vijuge“ !

Additional Comments

Thanks to this project, Niš has became the city with the fastest growing number of registered players in the EGF, annually. This information should be the basis for thinking about the idea of establishing some kind of regional centre for children's Go development. I would be happy if the EGF would consider this idea.

For me, it seems that the project "Play Go – Train the Brain“ is endless and will last through generations of my Go students, even when they become new Teslas, Einsteins or Pupins...

Documents

Please find three additional documents with links to media coverage and more information here (list of media-links in English), here (project outline in cyrillic) and here (extensive report in cyrillic).

First Project Phase: New Go Sets (October 2016)
First Project Phase: New Go Sets (October 2016)
First Project Phase: First TV interview, NIŠ OPEN 2017
First Project Phase: First TV interview, NIŠ OPEN 2017
We participate in all City events
We participate in all City events
First Project Phase: Mirjana with pupils during the NIŠ OPEN 2017
First Project Phase: Mirjana with pupils during the NIŠ OPEN 2017
Slovak guests play with my pupils in the Go club (May 2017)
Slovak guests play with my pupils in the Go club (May 2017)
Go promotion in Mathematics Camp Mt. Tara (July 2017)
Go promotion in Mathematics Camp Mt. Tara (July 2017)
Go promotion during the Mathematics Summer Camp (July 2017)
Go promotion during the Mathematics Summer Camp (July 2017)
First Interview: show up Timisoara (August 2017)
First Interview: show up Timisoara (August 2017)
Second Project Phase: Their First games of the NIŠ OPEN 2017 (October 2017)
Second Project Phase: Their First Game on NIŠ OPEN 2017 (October 2017)
Nis University promo: Bushido and Go (October 2017)
Nis University promo: Bushido and Go (October 2017)
Second Project Phase: First Lecture (October 2017)
Second Project Phase: First Lecture (October 2017)
Second Project Phase: Junior Championship in Niš (October-November 2017)
Second Project Phase: Junior Championship in Niš (November-October 2017)
Second Project Phase: Senior Championships Kg (November 2017)
Second Project Phase: Senior Championships (November 2017)
Second Project Phase: Playing with Bots (December 2017)
Second Project Phase: Playing with bots (December 2017)
Second Project Phase: Senior vs. Junior during the NIŠ OPEN 2018
Second Project Phase: Senior vs. Junior during the NIŠ OPEN 2018
Second Project Phase: Master and Pupils during the Sretenje tournament (February 2018)
Second Project Phase: Master and Pupils during the Sretenje tournament (February 2018)
We created an original promo poster
We created an original promo poster
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