Inspired by Hogwarts

Like a lot of people who experienced the Harry Potter series, I was hooked from Book 1. My copies of the seven books have been sitting around for the past years, mostly untouched but always taunting to be re-experienced. By the time G turned five, it was clear he was hungry for more complex stories than those found in books for kids his age. Though he was still just learning to read, he wasn’t interested in books that he could read. I thought I’d give Harry Potter a try. At the time of this posting, two months after we started, we are more than halfway through Book 6.

Inspired by this new love of the Harry Potter series, we decided to do our own Hogwarts classes. Some activities were easy enough to translate to real world activities (e.g. Care of Magical Creatures = Care of Real World–But No Less Magical–Creatures), while others required a little more imagination (Transfiguration: How do you turn a teacup into a frog?) So far, we have risen up to seven challenges:


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Of the many spells mentioned in the books, we chose to start with the Summoning Charm (Accio). We used this activity to learn about magnets.

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Care of Magical Creatures

We took the same approach to Care of Magical Creatures as we did Herbology (because when you live in Chicago and it’s not freezing outside, you take every opportunity to go on a field trip!) This time, we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo and visited the many magical creatures that call that place home. We even spotted Hedwig (snowy owl) and a unicorn (ok, it was a gazelle that had lost one horn).

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For this class, we tackled the density of three different liquids: water, oil, and corn syrup. Given two different food coloring (pink and green), I gave G a task: Put liquids in a container to produce 3 distinct layers. The layers should be as follows:

  • YELLOW on top
  • PINK in the middle
  • GREEN at the bottom

This turned out to be a really fun experiment for him. In his iterations, he attempted to color the oil (didn’t work; oil and water don’t mix), and then realized that he didn’t need to color it. It was already yellow. After that, all that was left was to figure out which liquid sank to the bottom, and which one floated to the top. He then colored the appropriate liquids accordingly (i.e. green for the corn syrup, and pink for the water).

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I had to check out Harry Potter Wiki to get more details on Arithmancy, but even that provided little information. We know that it is really difficult, and it is described as “predicting the future using numbers.” I think Probability could fit the bill. The activity was a simple tracking of the results of 100 coin tosses. The most challenging part was doing a proper coin toss, since G kept dropping the coin. Eventually, I was given the task of doing the toss, while he recorded the results. And just because it’s more fun, we punched holes instead of simply writing the results.

We ended up with 49 HEADS and 51 TAILS.

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How do you turn a teacup into a hopping frog? With origami, of course! We used these instructions, and made sure to use green construction paper for the full effect.

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Defense Against the Dark Arts

Finally, just like Harry Potter, G’s favorite subject: D.A.D.A. For this, we built a catapult and shot at paper villain targets. We practiced defending against a troll, a dementor, and Bellatrix Lestrange.

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When you’re in a certain mindset, it’s easy to see connections everywhere. This certainly happened to us in our Harry Potter quests, and here are some of our bonus experiences:

  • A trip to the Forbidden Forest
  • Participating in the Triwizard Tournament
  • Seeing a Whomping Willow


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