On Monday, local elementary-age kids wore wizard robes and pointy hats for their “potions class.” They made slime. On Tuesday, they simulated “dragon’s breath” by blowing an herbal powder into a candle, resulting in fireballs. The day after that, the students made catapults to launch “golden snitches,” which were really golf balls painted gold with paper wings attached.
If those sound like plot points from a Harry Potter novel, it’s no accident. These kids are enrolled in the most popular of Bend Science Station’s themed summer camps: Hogwarts Academy, which is based on the wizarding school from the beloved Harry Potter books and films.
The Bend Science Station, a nonprofit organization that provides hands-on science education for kids, offers a variety of science camps that change every summer, said Lisa Bermudez, the organization’s development director. But Hogwarts Academy is the only camp that’s held every year. The nonprofit offers the four-day camp for students entering third through fifth grade twice each summer because it fills up so quickly.
“We have kids that come back year after year,” Bermudez said.
When Hogwarts Academy was founded in 2008, the goal was to take the wildly popular Harry Potter book/film franchise and translate its various magical moments into engaging science-based activities. Tying science projects to the series was an easy way to grab kids’ attention, Bermudez said.
“We found that kids could get more excited about doing science in the summer when it was attached to something in their everyday lives,” she said. “And what kid doesn’t love Harry Potter?”
The camps rely heavily on many of the wizarding courses and activities in the Harry Potter series.
For example, some of the characters fly brooms in the wizard sport Quidditch. Students made their own “flying brooms” by stuffing 2-liter bottles filled with water into the broom head, then pressurizing water inside with a bike pump to launch the bottles 100 feet into the air, according to Dan Martin, a Bend Science Station instructor.
Kids take “herbology” classes at the camp just like Hogwarts students. They performed experiments on Venus flytraps and sensitive plants, which recoil when touched, snipped or burned. Their fire-breathing lesson, which involved putting lycopodium powder into small rubber tubes and blowing it into a candle, taught them how oxygen is necessary for the powder to ignite. It also taught them about the properties of the powder itself, Martin said.
The kids also get to meet “magical creatures” such as fiddler crabs, sea urchins, jellyfish and sea anemones.
“It’s just something they don’t see in everyday life,” Martin said. “We connect it to the magical world of Harry Potter, but they see there is real magic out there in the world.”
In order to launch golden snitches — those flying balls used in Harry Potter’s aerial Quidditch games — the students had to design and construct their own catapults. This helped the kids learn physics concepts, problem solving and design skills, as well as perseverance when their initial designs didn’t work as planned, according to Dave Bermudez, Bend Science Station’s executive director and Lisa Bermudez’s husband.
“Using tools is something I’ve noticed that they don’t get a lot of time to do,” he said. “This is a great activity for them to use their hands to actually construct something.”
Part of what delights kids about Hogwarts Academy is the camp’s immersive theming. During “potions” lessons, where students conduct experiments like making slime out of borax and polyvinyl alcohol, Dave Bermudez dresses up as the infamously cranky Hogwarts professor Severus Snape, which delights the kids.
“He’s pretty hard on them, but they seem to love it,” Martin said. “He’s yelling and screaming at them and trying to get them to behave, and some of the kids try to push his buttons to get him to react.”
Kids at the camp were very invested in the Harry Potter theme — many wore Hogwarts-style uniforms with robes and ties bearing the colors of their desired house. Hunter Westhoff, 9, even brought a stuffed owl named Midnight, mimicking Harry Potter’s trusty owl, Hedwig, to go along with her handmade Ravenclaw uniform.
Grayson Hawkins, 11, said he loves how Hogwarts Academy brought a sense of magic into science.
“It’s fun because you’re in the actual wizarding world,” he said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7854, firstname.lastname@example.org