World of wizardry: Students on fall break take Harry Potter-themed educational journey

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Last week, 11-year-old Justin Takemoto received an envelope in the mail sealed with wax.

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Last week, 11-year-old Justin Takemoto received an envelope in the mail sealed with wax.

He tore it open to find an acceptance letter to the Gwenyn Gwych School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Hawaii wizarding school within the Harry Potter world.

Justin, an avid Harry Potter fan, was thrilled.

“I was literally jumping all over the house,” Justin recalled Wednesday. “I was pretty excited.”

Justin was one of 75 East Hawaii students to receive the Gwenyn Gwych acceptance letters, sent to get students enthused for the Harry Potter theme of this year’s fall break STEAM camp at E.B. de Silva Elementary School.

The camp that ended Friday took place during the five-day academic hiatus for Hawaii public school students.

“Kids love Harry Potter,” camp organizer Christian Wong said. “Most of the parents are telling me their kids are waking up at 6 a.m. ready to run out the door (to go to camp). And the parents really appreciate having an activity for them during this time.”

The camp is produced by the Hawaii Science and Technology Museum, a Hilo nonprofit that formed in 2015. The museum runs mobile library and school exhibits, along with several other camps during the year, aimed at fostering student interest in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

The fall break camp was considered a STEAM event because it also included art activities, Wong said.

“We thought a Harry Potter theme would be a great way to combine the arts with STEM,” he said. “Even though our main focus is STEM, I felt the arts also were very important and it’s really good to combine them.”

All STEAM activities were created with the Harry Potter theme in mind. For example, students learned about osmosis by creating mandrakes — plants with a human-like root and known in the fantasy book series for their piercing shriek.

Students also learned about astronomy via a lesson rebranded as astrology and divination. And they made an “elixir of youth” during alchemy class, a mix of teas, juices and colored water, said Min-Ling Li, the camp’s “professor of mystical math.”

“But they’re all measuring it in a very precise way,” Li said. “They’re using graduated cylinders, beakers, teaspoons and a balance. They take it home and it’s supposed to refresh them and their families so that they feel more youthful. But at the same time, they’re looking at volume and mass and how they compare.”

The camp featured other Harry Potter touches: Students were assigned via a sorting hat into “houses” at the start of camp and signs pointing to Honeydukes, the Ministry of Magic, Azkaban, among other Wizarding World locations, were posted throughout the elementary school campus.

“The parents have really gotten into it,” Wong said, motioning to a table of letters and packages parents had sent via “owl delivery.” “But also what makes it fun is the kids are just so into it. They’re kind of meeting us halfway. They know that they’re not really at (wizarding school) but they’re using their imagination to just be in this world and learn everything they can learn. It’s just been so much fun.”

Camp enrollment increased by about 20 students this year, Wong said, which he attributes to positive feedback from last year’s first camp.

He said the Harry Potter theme has been so popular the camp is considering a return next year.

On Wednesday, camper Connor Gonzales, 11, said he most enjoyed Quidditch practice (a magical sport played on broomsticks) and Magical Machines, a robotics class.

Connor said his favorite part of camp overall was pretending to be part of the Harry Potter world. He said he’s read all the books in the series and he can identify with Harry, who also was 11 when he enrolled at wizarding school.

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“He’s somebody who felt like he was just a normal kid but then he found out he was special,” Connor said. “And I think everyone can kind of relate to him. When you know you’re just a normal kid but then you also know you’re special in a certain way.”

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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World of wizardry: Students on fall break take Harry Potter-themed educational journey

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald The Faberfox house students hold up their freshly made magic wands in the Gwenyn Gwych School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on Wednesday during Harry Potter fall break camp at E.B. de Silva Elementary School in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Keiki learn about robotics through the theme Magical Machines in the Gwenyn Gwych School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on Wednesday during Harry Potter fall break camp at E.B. de Silva Elementary School in Hilo.

Last week, 11-year-old Justin Takemoto received an envelope in the mail sealed with wax.

He tore it open to find an acceptance letter to the Gwenyn Gwych School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Hawaii wizarding school within the Harry Potter world.

ADVERTISING


Justin, an avid Harry Potter fan, was thrilled.

“I was literally jumping all over the house,” Justin recalled Wednesday. “I was pretty excited.”

Justin was one of 75 East Hawaii students to receive the Gwenyn Gwych acceptance letters, sent to get students enthused for the Harry Potter theme of this year’s fall break STEAM camp at E.B. de Silva Elementary School.

The camp that ended Friday took place during the five-day academic hiatus for Hawaii public school students.

“Kids love Harry Potter,” camp organizer Christian Wong said. “Most of the parents are telling me their kids are waking up at 6 a.m. ready to run out the door (to go to camp). And the parents really appreciate having an activity for them during this time.”

The camp is produced by the Hawaii Science and Technology Museum, a Hilo nonprofit that formed in 2015. The museum runs mobile library and school exhibits, along with several other camps during the year, aimed at fostering student interest in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

The fall break camp was considered a STEAM event because it also included art activities, Wong said.

“We thought a Harry Potter theme would be a great way to combine the arts with STEM,” he said. “Even though our main focus is STEM, I felt the arts also were very important and it’s really good to combine them.”

All STEAM activities were created with the Harry Potter theme in mind. For example, students learned about osmosis by creating mandrakes — plants with a human-like root and known in the fantasy book series for their piercing shriek.

Students also learned about astronomy via a lesson rebranded as astrology and divination. And they made an “elixir of youth” during alchemy class, a mix of teas, juices and colored water, said Min-Ling Li, the camp’s “professor of mystical math.”

“But they’re all measuring it in a very precise way,” Li said. “They’re using graduated cylinders, beakers, teaspoons and a balance. They take it home and it’s supposed to refresh them and their families so that they feel more youthful. But at the same time, they’re looking at volume and mass and how they compare.”

The camp featured other Harry Potter touches: Students were assigned via a sorting hat into “houses” at the start of camp and signs pointing to Honeydukes, the Ministry of Magic, Azkaban, among other Wizarding World locations, were posted throughout the elementary school campus.

“The parents have really gotten into it,” Wong said, motioning to a table of letters and packages parents had sent via “owl delivery.” “But also what makes it fun is the kids are just so into it. They’re kind of meeting us halfway. They know that they’re not really at (wizarding school) but they’re using their imagination to just be in this world and learn everything they can learn. It’s just been so much fun.”

Camp enrollment increased by about 20 students this year, Wong said, which he attributes to positive feedback from last year’s first camp.

He said the Harry Potter theme has been so popular the camp is considering a return next year.

On Wednesday, camper Connor Gonzales, 11, said he most enjoyed Quidditch practice (a magical sport played on broomsticks) and Magical Machines, a robotics class.

Connor said his favorite part of camp overall was pretending to be part of the Harry Potter world. He said he’s read all the books in the series and he can identify with Harry, who also was 11 when he enrolled at wizarding school.

ADVERTISING


“He’s somebody who felt like he was just a normal kid but then he found out he was special,” Connor said. “And I think everyone can kind of relate to him. When you know you’re just a normal kid but then you also know you’re special in a certain way.”

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.