SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The Middle Earth Club at South Orange Middle School inspires members to create, explore and imagine.

“We are the knights of the square table with rounded edges,” the students said.

The Middle Earth Club, which started in January, meets after school once a week at the SOMS from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m.

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“I love the Middle Earth Club,” said Rock Huebner, a sixth-grader, “I am a big ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan.”

The Middle Earth Club teacher, Linda Abella, also runs the Ecology Club at SOMS and teaches science. In the past few weeks, Abella has taught the students in the club calligraphy, which they used to make Valentine’s Day cards. Abella also taught the students how to write in elvish runes, and they learned the history of author J.R.R. Tolkien and filmmaker Peter Jackson.

“It’s really interesting to learn what they did in the movies,” sixth-grader Josh Rubel said.

Recently, the students were working on a travel journal, which is like a diary. They took two pieces of cardboard and decorated the outside with paper. They crumpled it up to make the paper look old. The students then taped the paper on the cardboard, added pages inside the journal and then added binding with different colored duct tape.

The week before, the students watched “The Hobbit,” ate popcorn and talked about the movie.

“It’s really nice to have people who like the same things as you do,” said sixth-grader Elisabeth Ragone.

“It is the one club to rule them all,” Abella said, a reference to the “Lord of the Rings” “one ring to rule them all.”

The after-school club is one of 36 such clubs, which also include the Junior Dance Club, Chess Club and Creative Writing, run by YouthNet, a nonprofit organization active in South Orange and Maplewood.

Kathy Hester, a YouthNet coordinator, said that YouthNet was in its third year of clubs. She also said that last year the teachers became interested in the clubs, which is what made the kids interested in different clubs. The students can try a different club each session. Three sessions offered include fall, winter and spring.

The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.