2018 Camp News

Camp Instructions - Getting Ready for Day 1

posted Jul 12, 2018, 12:39 PM by James Hodina

Dear Prairie Chess Camp Families,

This is the last email before we kick-off our chess camp on Monday. This and all past emails are online at www.chessiniowa.org/chesscamp.  I hope your students are as excited as we are.  I have every expectation that this will be the best Prairie Chess Camp ever! This email contains information on:

  • Complete Lunch Sign Up

  • How to Reach the Camp During the Day

  • Drop off / Pick up  Process

  • Bus Transportation to/from Iowa City West High School

  • Name Badges / Check-in and Out

  • Behavior Expectations

  • Recess

  • Personal Belongings

Please Complete Your Lunch Sign Up!


I need to submit our Monday lunch order 24 hours in advance.  Please follow this link to complete your choices for the week.  If there are reasons that any of the meal choices do not work for your child, please let me know and we will see if accommodations can be made.  Obviously it’s easier if we can stick to the menu, but I would much rather take the additional time to find a meal option that works for your child.  The cost of these lunches are included in your registration.

How to Reach the Camp During the Day

If you need to get a hold of me during the day, my cell phone is 319-432-1459.

If this is an emergency and you need to reach the Prairie Point Middle School, their number is 319-848-5500.  The school office is not staffed after 2:30 pm.

Drop off / Pick Up

The camp is held in the cafeteria of the Prairie Point Middle School.  This is the same location as the many Prairie Chess Tournaments we have recently hosted.  The street address is 8015 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, and is immediately south of The Hotel at Kirkwood.  You should enter the school through the North Entrance, also known as the Activities Entrance, near the tennis courts. The camp program will start at 8 am and end by 4:30 pm.  You may drop off 30 minutes early and pick up 30 minutes late (7:30 am to 5:00 pm).

Bus Transportation to/from Iowa City West High

We have many students signed up for the College Community School District school bus transportation to/from Iowa City West High School.  The bus will depart at 7:30 am sharp so that all of our students can get to Prairie by 8 am. It will return by 5 pm each day.  It is very important that you are there on time to pickup and drop off your child by these times.  Signup are shown with the registration list as well as in the attachment.  Please double check your reservation and contact me with any corrections or changes.  There is plenty of room on the bus, so everyone will have the ability to ride the bus if they need.  We also have many of our camp staff that will be on the bus, too. If your child is not accustomed to riding the school bus, please make sure that you discuss with him/her appropriate behavior.  There are no seat belts on school buses, but that does not mean students can get out of their seat. They must be respectful of the bus driver at all times and follow the driver's instructions. Gokul and Sanmati Thangavel are our camp staff bus monitor. They will be taking attendance on the bus and reinforce these instructions.  The drop off location is in the west parking lot of the high school as shown below. It is not in front of the school building.


West High Tranportation Drop Off Location.jpg

Name Badges / Check In and Out

Every student will have a name badge.  When arriving, we want students to pick up their badge and when they leave for the day, we want them to return it.  This is how we check students in and out of camp as well as outside for recess. There is not a sign in sheet. If your contact information has changed since registration (primarily daytime phone numbers) please send me an email with the updated information.  Please remember that you may drop off as early as 7:30 am. This is meant for parents who are trying to get to work on time. Camp is over at 4:30 pm, so please pick up your student no later than 5 pm. For staff, we have many things to do to get ready for the next day and very much appreciate your cooperation.

Behavior Expectations

We expect all students to behave the same way as when they are in school (I am presuming that is good :-).  This will be one of the first things we discuss as a group on Monday. For your information, I am a member of the College Community School Board and am very familiar with school policies on this matter.  It is my utmost intention to follow applicable school policies during the Prairie Chess Camp. Students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner fitting to their age level and maturity and with respect and consideration for the rights of others while attending the camp, including times when riding the school bus.  Consequences for the misconduct will be fair and developmentally appropriate in light of the circumstances. Students who do not follow these expectations will be counseled. If the behavior persists, parents will be notified.


We will have three recesses during the day: morning, lunchtime, and afternoon.  Weather permitting, we will go outside. Please dress accordingly. This includes shoes if your child likes to play soccer or similar physical activities.  There is a basketball camp going on the week of chess camp and so access to the gym is limited. If it rains or is excessively hot, we may need to stay inside - but we will still have the scheduled breaks.

Personal Belongings

What can students bring to camp?  We do supply everything they need during the day.  An exception may be any medicine that you want on hand (although we do have a first aid kit).

  • Water bottles: We will have cups and water available throughout the day.  But if there is a favorite water bottle that students want to bring, that is great.  Just, please put your name on the bottle.

  • Electronic devices:  They are too numerous to name anymore, but if your child brings an electronic device, we cannot be responsible for it.  They can use them during our recess periods, on the bus, etc. But they are required to be turned off during the chess camp. WiFi is a bit spotty in the cafeteria (sorry).

  • Cell phones:  While this fits the category above, cell phones certainly serve other important purposes and do not need to be turned off as do other electronic devices.  Students may carry a cell phone, but we are also happy to hang on to cell phones during the day if they check them in with us upon arrival.

  • Backpacks:  We will have a place to store backpacks during the day.

That is all I have for now.  I will send you daily updates on our activities starting Monday evening.

Take care,

Jim Hodina


Welcome  2018 Prairie Chess Camp Families,

posted Jul 1, 2018, 2:28 PM by James Hodina

I hope your summer is off to a great start.  Six weeks from Monday, the Prairie Chess Camp begins.  It is our tenth annual chess camp and we are very excited for reaching this milestone.  In the days leading up to the camp, I will share with you information on food, transportation, registration, and instruction.  Once we start, I will provide daily updates and pictures of our chess camp activities. If you would like to look at the 2017 camp and pictures, feel free to check them out at http://www.chessiniowa.org/chesscamp/2017chesscamp

The chess camp is nearly sold out with only three of the sixty-four openings remaining. So, if you have a sibling or friend thinking about the chess camp, please refer them to our registration website and sign up  I will start a waitlist once the final spot is filled. The refund policy for canceling has been posted with the registration information. It is 100% for cancellations received by June 16 (a week from today), 75% by June 23, 50% by June 29, 25% by July 6, & 10% by July 13.

Our great crew of instructors returns to teach our chess students:  Senior Chess Masters Alex Betaneli, Erik Santarius, and Iowa US Masters Dan Brashaw and James Neal.   Assisting our professional staff is top junior players, US Chess Masters Arshaq Saleem and Joseph Wan and US Chess Experts Gokul Thangavel and Kevin Li.  Along with me, we have five (5) have additional volunteers helping out with food, recess, bus transportation, and classroom activities: Regan Hodina, Trevor Ciha, Andre Vongpanya, Crissy Vigil, and Teresa Knecht. Finally, we have some scholastic classroom helpers: Clive Power, AJ Kozich, Owen Fiedorowicz, Nathan Chen, and Anish Lodh - all very strong players in their own right.  So, you can see that we will be well staffed to provide a rewarding chess camp experience for our student chess players.

Over the years, we have refined a daily schedule that has proven to be a good mix of learning, play, food, and (of course) fun.  We place students into one of four groups (about 16 campers each) based on chess experience and age. Each instructor has a classroom and, in the morning, the groups take turns rotating to each classroom.  This way, every student has the opportunity to work with each instructor. Each classroom has a theme that they emphasize (endgame, middlegame, tactics, and instructional games). In the afternoon, students will then play tournament style games (e.g. slow, writing down moves, touch-move) against one or more opponents of equal playing strength.  The students will then review each game with an instructor. All students have a folder that they keep throughout the week where we store their tactics puzzles, recorded games, and other chess camp handouts. We break up the day with a 30 minute morning snack/recess, one-hour lunch/recess, and 30-minute afternoon snack/recess.

I will send out my next email in about three weeks. In that email, we will have a sign up for food from Subway, Taco Bell, Fazoli’s, Culver’s, and Dominoes (one each day).  These have proven to be good options as they are well liked and offer options that meet the varying dietary needs of our campers. On the subject of food, we will also have healthy morning and afternoon snacks.  We will avoid nuts and peanuts as a few of our students have nut allergies. If there are other allergies or dietary restrictions that I need to be aware of, please send me an email. I will also have more details on the logistics of transportation, drop-off, and pick-up.

In the meantime, feel free to check out our camp website and camp roster online at http://www.chessiniowa.org/chesscamp.

Take care,

Jim Hodina

Ph: 319-432-1459

1-2 of 2