Middle Division science clubs


Nate Chiang and Ariella Frommer

The Mighty Chondrias

Each week, Middle Division (MD) students who are passionate about science meet to discuss various science topics in a club called the Mighty Chondrias. A group of seventh graders started the club in the fall in order to share their love of science with each other, co-founder Bishop Ibrahim (7) said.

Once the co-founders developed the idea for the club, they exchanged emails with MD history teacher Cailtin Hickerson about logistics. They then asked co-founder Zach Hornfeld’s (7) advisor, MD science teacher Walter Wagner, to be the club’s faculty advisor. Wagner agreed, and within a week, the club had been created. 

New members mainly joined by word of mouth, Ibrahim said. Currently, the club has around ten members that participate consistently.

When creating the club, the founders wanted to avoid limiting discussions to one genre of science, co-founder Matthew Brand (7) said. Students are drawn to the club because it is a place of discovery, rather than learning textbook-based information, he said. 

The Mighty Chondrias have met once a week since October. During club meetings, students usually prepare presentations on various science topics, ask questions, and watch videos on topics presented, club member Anyi Sharma (7) said. Their discussions are informal and sometimes include debates about various science topics, she said. 

In this week’s meeting, the club focused on biology because Thursday was Earth Day. Hornfeld presented on how various animals adapt to their environment, he said. He discussed how Wood Frogs freeze over in the winter unscathed because of the glucose pumped into their cells, and how Electric Eels use electricity to stun their prey. 

Club discussions tend not to overlap with what students learn in class because members want to learn new ideas that reach beyond the curriculum, Sharma said. However, every so often, club members will discuss a topic that dives more deeply into a subject they learned in science class, she said. 

Aside from learning about science, club members also learn important collaboration skills, Brand said. 

Wagner can sense a bond between the students in the club, he said. Members encourage each other to come up with presentations in their free time, and they organically start discussions every time the club meets.

The club is unique in comparison to most clubs in the MD because students are the ones teaching, Ibrahim said. This process gives students more experience when giving presentations in their classes, he said. 

The Mighty Chondrias differs from day-to-day science classes because students get to have fun talking about what excites them, Wagner said. “You get the sense that students are really passionate about the topics they bring up when they’re getting involved in other students’ presentations, and they can feed off of their [peers] excitement.”

Wagner’s favorite part of advising the club is learning from his students. “During the day I’m the teacher, so they learn from me, but when I come into this space there’s always something fascinating to learn,” he said.  



Science Book Club

Earlier this year, Middle Division (MD) science teacher Jodi Hill and a group of her students formed a book club for students to read engaging literary works that explore the field of science. The club holds weekly meetings for members to discuss and express their opinions about the plot. Hill also plans presentations and activities about topics to share with students.  

The club is currently reading “The Vacation Guide to the Solar System,” by Olivia Koski, an astrologer at the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History. The book is a parody guide to the solar system that intertwines facts with intricate illustrations. Hill chose the book because it generates a lot of discussion, she said. She likes how the book discusses the possibility of space travel to distant moons and planets in the future. 

While the book is a work of science-fiction, Rose Korff (8) enjoys how club members discuss the content as if it were factual, she said. “It’s really cool to imagine the things we might have to think about in the future if we get to travel to planets for vacation.”

Participating in the club has made members more engaged in science and flexible to exploring new genres. Before joining the Book Club, Carmen Zhang (8) did not enjoy reading science books because the concepts were difficult to understand on her own. Now, she is more inspired to read science-related books because she has a group of people to ask questions to and make reading the book more fun. “I am more interested in the solar system as well as science books,” she said.  

Korff was a member of the MD Science Olympiad team in previous years, but because Science Olympiad is not happening this year, she decided to join the Science Book Club. Korff enjoys the competitive aspect of Science Olympiad, however, reading science books and having intriguing discussions is just as fun for her, she said. 

Club meetings are often relaxing and enjoyable for students, Hill said. “We read [the book] chapter by chapter [and] then discuss it,” she said. “We also play games like Kahoot, watch related video clips and even conduct some activities.” Hill hopes that the club will inspire members to explore literature and science beyond what is offered in the current MD science curriculum.

Korff enjoys doing club activities at home using materials she has around her house, she said. To learn about craters on the moon, club members did an activity with flour and marbles. Korff is learning more detail about planets than what she studied in her 6th grade science class, she said.