ChemClub Spotlight: Rye High School

By AACT on March 7, 2023

The Rye High School ChemClub in New York brings together students with a passion for using chemistry as a way to give back to the community. Their club meets every week, and bonds over a love of food science and yearly traditions like making Dip n' Dots or crafting their own paper with seeds in it for Earth Day. 

The students in this club are encouraged to take the lead and pioneer their own projects based on their specific ambitions and interests. 

Donating Fresh-Grown Produce

One student, new to the ChemClub this year, has been arriving at school early to meet with staff about securing the greenhouse for a club gardening project. The club plans to use school resources to grow food and donate it to food banks around Westchester, New York. 

The project brings together elements of chemistry and the scientific process. In addition to what food banks in the area report needing, they plan to grow fast-growing foods like salad greens and herbs in order to perfect the growing process through trial and error.

In the process, they’ll learn about soil chemistry and soil composition. One student commented about what they're learning. "The chemistry of soil is really dependent on the pH of it, and Ionic mobility affects what type of crop you can grow in the soil" he said.

In the past, the club grew cherry tomatoes, spider plants and geraniums. 

Even the physics department is involved in the project: the physics classroom houses the compost, to which the ChemClub contributes.

My interest in chemistry started because I was trying to find a way to help out the Westchester community. -- Rye High School ChemClub Student

Cleaning up Local Beaches

Another student is engaging in polymer research in his science research class and was inspired to apply that knowledge to environmental activism through ChemClub. 

"I’ve been focused on environmental science" he said. "I’ve seen how chemistry concepts can be used to help or destroy the environment and it’s really interesting to me."

His specific focus for the club is ocean preservation. "As a ChemClub, we’re going to organize a beach day cleanup" he said.

Food Science

At least once a month, the club embarks on a food science journey.

They learned about the science of ice cream, including why it melts and how flavors work. So far, they've also made their own pancakes, butter, fudge and cheese. 

Inspiring the Students 

Ms. Sally Mitchell, a long-time ChemClub advisor, leads Rye High School's ChemClub. One of her club's recipes is even featured in the ChemClub Cookbook

She engages her students with the opportunity to combine learning and fun, while inspiring them with modern-day role models. 

"We're a group of people who not only want to have fun, but also want to learn, and we do a lot of that" one student said. 

When asked who their role models in the chemistry world are, the students responded that they look up to Ms. Mitchell. They also have regular conversations about Nobel Prize winners and follow current trends with the award. Students recently had the opportunity to virtually attend a speech by Nobel Prize winning scientist Frances Arnold, and ask her questions.

If I were to recommend anything [to make your club successful], I'd say throw some ideas out there and just go for it. --Rye High School ChemClub Student