Spotlight on Middle School Clubs

Earlier in the academic year, Middle School students enthusiastically moved from one table to the next at the organized frenzy that is Middle School Clubs Fair. It is amid this excitement that they learn about and sign up for a wide array of activities and clubs. At the fair, there is always something for everyone—African Dance & Drum, Chess, History Club, Math Olympiad, Photography, Middle School Senate, and more, over 30 clubs in all. These opportunities to explore and cultivate interests and build friendships are woven into the daily student lives at Poly.

“Poly’s Middle School clubs program provides students with the opportunity to both lean into existing interests and discover new ones,” said Jared Winston, Director of Student Life. “Students rank the preferred clubs and then participate in a student-specific rotation throughout the year. This keeps our clubs program dynamic, allowing our Middle School students the opportunity to connect with different peers and explore new activities.”

Green Devils Solve Environmental Problems
Lantern Fly

Everyone has heard about the threat that invasive spotted lantern flies pose to trees. One of the goals of Poly’s Middle School Green Devils club is to find environmental problems, such as the infestation of lantern flies, and find ways to solve them. During club time recently, the six members were busy building wildlife-safe lantern fly traps, which they planned to hang in trees on campus. The lantern flies feed on a wide range of plants including fruit trees and maple trees, leaving sap oozing along with an unpleasant odor. Pear and maple trees are among the species found on the Dyker Heights campus.

In teams, the students were using glue guns to attach netting to the inside of an orange cone and then rubber banding a plastic bag to the narrow end of the cone. The plan was to hang the traps in trees during their next club session. Advisor Debbie Van Ryn, Middle School science teacher, explained that the lantern flies have a tendency to climb up and will get stuck in the plastic bag attached at the top of the trap. On October 21, the students took their lantern fly traps and attached them to the pear trees near the greenhouse. So if you see something unusual hanging from the trees, you will know the Green Devils have been there. Next, they are on to the Poly ponds where they will test the water and come with a solution to make it cleaner.

Middle School Clubs Green Devils Lantern Fly Trap
Middle School Clubs Green Devils Lantern Fly Trap
Middle School Clubs Green Devils Lantern Fly Trap
Middle School Clubs Green Devils Lantern Fly Trap
Middle School Clubs Green Devils Lantern Fly Trap
Dead lantern flies

Anisah R. ’28 described plans for the next Green Devils project. “We are going to try to find the pH of the water in our campus pond,” Anisah said, “and try to clean it in some way.” About the lantern fly project, she added, “I enjoyed working with my partner and as a team, and knowing that, as a new student this year, I was already doing something to help the school. I hope to learn about other common problems everywhere and create solutions, using the things we do in this club as a reference.”

What other local problems might the Green Devils tackle?I would like to see if we can work on being less wasteful both in school and as a community,” Arie R-R. ’30 said. “For example, education about recycling. I hope to learn more about how Poly Prep can improve its sustainability and what we do currently to help.”

“My favorite part of working on the lantern fly trap,” Arie said, “was probably building something that I know will be helpful to the environment. It was also cool to work with partners on this project. I’m excited to have more fun projects in Green Devils.”

Dalia G. ’29 is also interested in keeping Poly clean. “I hope to learn about how easy I can make a change in my own school that makes school life a lot better.  My favorite part of the lantern fly trap was assembling all of the parts for the trap. I also enjoyed working with my partners and collaborating with them.”

“Our goals are to look at local issues tied to sustainability,” said Van Ryn, “and implement local-based solutions.  In addition to lantern fly traps, we have identified that we will work on recycling.  What the Poly operations staff is able to manage soon will be paper recycling and we will work with Elijah Sivin to develop and advertise a plan for recycling of paper.”  The details are still being worked out.

Literary Magazine & Poetry Club Finds Inspiration

On a beautiful fall day, the Literary Magazine & Poetry Club members, with notebooks and writing utensils in hand, took an inspiration walk around the Oval. Middle School English teachers and club advisors Andrea Del Valle P’29, ’33 and Melinda Lvovsky P’30, ’32 had suggested two seasonal words for inspiration — “haunted” and “ghosts.” As they stopped by a cornhusk display at the bottom of the front steps, Del Valle suggested words to describe crunching the husk such as “crackling” and “withered.” She also pointed out a “spindly” shrub. The students spread out and took notes for a possible Halloween-themed story.

“It’s a treat to have time built into our schedules to just write for ourselves and not because we are doing it for a class, a grade, or some sort of deadline.”

“Literary & Poetry Magazine club is a creative time during which students can immerse themselves in the joy of writing,” said Del Valle. “We often start with an example poem, but we also want to give time to students to be inspired by the world around us by taking sensory walks outside, or thinking about whatever is on our minds. It’s a treat to have time built into our schedules to just write for ourselves and not because we are doing it for a class, a grade, or some sort of deadline. Rather, we want to explore the creative part of ourselves.”

Middle School Clubs Literary Magazine & Poetry Club
Middle School Clubs Literary Magazine & Poetry Club
Middle School Clubs Literary Magazine & Poetry Club

Lydia C. ’30 explained, “I most enjoy fiction writing due to the fact that you can create anything you want and can be creative. I do not love non-fiction due to the fact that you have to stick to certain facts when writing non-fiction.” About the inspiration walk, Lydia said, “I was inspired to write about the signs that summer is turning into fall and fall is turning into winter. I added details of the temperature and the effects I noticed it had on the environment.”

MakeupArt Club: Creating a Personal Canvas

About a dozen Middle School students gathered in Art Studio 3 for a meeting of Makeup Art Club on Day 4 recently. Visual Arts teacher and club advisor Paola Ligonde stood next to a table with an array of lip glosses, glitters, powders, liquids, and other makeup supplies. Before anyone touched the materials, Ligonde stressed the importance of cleanliness and safety in using the supplies. She held up a small white paint palette and explained that all makeup would be squeezed or dripped onto a student’s palette and then the student would use a brush to apply the makeup.

“MakeUp Art club attempts to bridge the perceived differences between canonized ‘Art’ disciplines and the [still rigorous] applied arts that we enjoy and consume every day,” Ligonde explained. “After all, makeup is the drawing and painting of one’s own personal canvas.”

Middle School Clubs MakeUp
Paola Ligonde Middle School Clubs MakeUp
Middle School Clubs MakeUp

“In MakeUp Art Club,” Ligonde continued, “students will pull inspiration from their own research and series episodes of Netflix’s ‘Glow Up: Britain’s Next Make-Up Star’ to learn basic makeup application skills. Each base skill will be built upon by a simple but bold embellishment technique. My hope is that students, through the joy of doing their own makeup, will gain an alternative outlet  for confidently and creatively expressing their truest selves.”

Middle School Clubs Makeup Moodboard

Ligonde shared an aspirational mood board she made for the club and a board of inspiration photos students collected.

Eighth grader Kiera K. ’27, who says she is already a makeup artist, said she joined the club “to better my skills.” Asked if she has worked on any Poly productions as a makeup artist, Kiera said, “No, I have not, but I would really like to.”

Kiera noted that Ms. Ligonde made it optional whether or not students put anything on their skin. In the rotation of Middle School clubs, Kiera hopes next to “participate in the volleyball club, and writing club.”