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South Jordan Journal

Learning with wands, potions and core curriculum

Sep 21, 2018 03:31PM ● By Jana Klopsch

After reading six of the seven books in the “Harry Potter series,” students were encouraged to dress as their favorite characters for their one-day culminating activity, Harry Potter Day. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected] 

Learning gets a lot more fun when it’s integrated into literature, science, math and magic. 

Class has barely begun, but already South Jordan fifth-graders in Diane Witt-Roper’s class are looking forward to the end of the school year. That’s because they know they can fly across the gym, mix up some potions and have their own book of spells. 

Every school year, Witt-Roper holds a Harry Potter Day, integrating core curriculum subjects with those of “Harry Potter” — potions, wands and magic. 

“Our HP Day is a culminating activity,” she said. “The true goal of all of this is to get and keep the students interested in reading along with integrating all subject matter while keeping it fun. I also use STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities during the year and many more on Harry Potter Day.”  

During the year, Witt-Roper encourages students read six of the seven “Harry Potter” books in the series so they are familiar with the storyline before the end of the school year event. 

“I encourage the students to read book 7 during the summer,” she said.

As South Jordan is a Leader in Me school, she also includes several activities that tie the seven habits with the “Harry Potter” books. 

The Leader in Me program was developed based on Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Happy Kids” and focus on seven traits: Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First; Think Win-Win; Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood; Synergize; and Sharpen the Saw. 

When Harry Potter Day arrives, last school year it was on June 8, Witt-Roper decorates the entire stage as Hogwarts, and uses the gym for a Quidditch field as well as Honey Dukes, or the store filled with Butter Beer, Bertie Botts, Dragon Eggs, Dementor Relief and more. 

Students arrive dressed as their favorite character and receive a Hogwarts bag, wand, quill, and monster book. They are then sorted into the 4 houses, matching those of the books.  

“I dressed as Hermoine,” fifth-grader Emily Austin said. “My favorite part is getting the wand. I wish it could be real.” 

Her schoolmate, Ellie Dupaix, said she liked getting the monster book filled with spells, mythical creatures handbook and the history of Hogwarts. 

“I’m keeping it forever,” she said, adding that the fifth book in the series is her favorite. “It would be great if I could levitate my 8-year-old sister and dangle her over the stairs.” 

However, she said learning the science in potions was her favorite part of the day.

Witt-Roper has students perform experiments with Polyjuice or Dawn dish soap, milk, vinegar and cotton balls. 

“Everything is safe, but it’s fun to learn about chemical reactions in potions class,” she said.

Witt-Roper also teaches herbology lessons from the STEM guidelines, “Harry Potter”-style, which are posted on the wall. Other STEM subjects include arthmancy, transfiguration, care of magical creatures and more. 

“We start the activities which include several science and math activities and a writing activity (about Floo Powder),” she said. “One of my favorite activities is replanting Mandrakes (plants).”

Students also get to complete “Harry Potter” creative writing worksheets, do a seven-Horcrux scavenger hunt within and out of the school and a relay race, where this year Slytherin won, which earned them house points. The race included physical activity such as high knees and jumping jacks as well as quizzed them about “Harry Potter” literature and some fun — say the alphabet in Hagrid’s voice. 

 At the end of the day, the house with the most points wins the grand prize. 

But all students win, as they can spend their wizarding money at Honey Dukes and Weasley Brother’s Joke shop.  

Classroom aide Madison Barrett, who dressed as Ginny, said she and her classmates like the day.

“The kids get into the book and really love it; they’re making connections,” she said. “There’s a lot of group work, so they’re learning how to work as a team. They need to recall what they read or what they learned in science. It’s a great way to have a cumulating event be lots of fun and still include learning.” 

Witt-Roper has been doing Harry Potter Day for six years, and it continues to build into an activity both she and the students enjoy. However, the best part is having students be immersed in the literature, she said.

“It is so gratifying that at the end of each book, the students actually applaud,” Witt-Roper said.