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RANGELY I From Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans to a potions class and Quidditch games, this Friday’s “A Night At Hogwarts” event promises an evening that Rangely families won’t soon forget.
Parkview Elementary School second-grade teacher Vicki Douglas knew she wanted to coordinate a night of Harry Potter-themed games, classes, food and activities when she attended a similar program last fall in Saratoga Springs, Utah, with grandsons Tyler, 8, and Jason, 6.
“We were at (daughter) Heather’s one weekend and the boys’ school was doing it,” Douglas said. “I was blown away by what it was. It was so much fun … I was going around taking pictures of everything and saying, ‘We have to do this at Parkview.’”
Last spring, Douglas pitched the idea to Parkview staff and administration. Her enthusiasm for the project soon had most staff on board with volunteers researching ideas and working on projects over the summer.
“It started out as a money-making project,” Douglas said. “We have things to pay for, like monthly rewards and items in the prize box. My point to the staff was, whoever helps with it will split the money. Then it just started growing. (Parkview Principal) Mike Kruger got really into it.”
Kruger believed that while the event itself was worth pursuing, the motivation behind it could be threefold: gear it toward promoting literacy as much as earning money, he reasoned, and make it an annual event. He even lent some activity funding to get the project off the ground.
“Right now in education there’s a lot of emphasis on non-fiction literature — in the sciences, in social studies, even in English,” Kruger said. “But we don’t want kids to lose their fascination with fiction … I think J.K. Rowling’s ideas are as exciting as any to promote reading for kids, and her stories are still big because of the movies.”
During a recent school assembly, Kruger explained to students that as a child, he’d only wanted to read sports stories about athletes like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. But somebody handed him Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” and that changed his understanding of reading. He soon became immersed in the book’s descriptions of time travel and evil forces on other planets.
“I read that book for the first time and it got me so excited about that kind of literature,” he said. “Since then, I’ve always been a reader of fantasy and sci-fi, whether it’s (J.R.R. Tolkien’s) ‘Lord of the Rings’ or C.S. Lewis. A Night at Hogwarts is about getting kids excited about reading and being involved in the adventures of reading.”
Douglas said that while larger schools’ Harry Potter events may include children’s authors attending to talk with kids or sign books, the first year of A Night at Hogwarts will simply encourage students to discover the imagination and joy books contain.
“We’re pretty limited as far as bringing people in,” Douglas said. “But we want kids to explore the idea that creativity and fun can come from reading. Most kids now are exposed to the (Harry Potter) movies, and that’s fine. But all of the stories started as books.”
Whether faculty and staff will transform into characters from the series, sell goodies from Honeydukes sweet shop or run life-sized games of checkers or chess, families will find plenty to fill their time during the event’s 6 to 8 p.m. run time at Parkview Elementary School.
All games are included in the $3 individual or $10 family admission fee as are classes ranging from outdoor astronomy lessons (telescopes included) to a creatures class and potions lesson.
Crafts made in the “owlery” will suit littler ones, and kids can show up in their own costumes or don wizard gear at the photo booth. Other offerings, like sweet shop treats, wizard wands and photographs can be bought with galleons that families can purchase for $1 each once they arrive.
Although not everyone involved in A Night at Hogwarts has read the series; many have educated themselves in preparation for the event, taking books home and passing movies around. Others are simply “die-hard fans” of the series, Douglas said.
And while Douglas hopes the months of hard work people have put into the event pays off for the kids, she knows none of it would happen without people pooling time and resources to do something bigger than any of them could do alone.
“When you think of all the different people doing a little part of it, that’s what made it happen,” she said. “When all this began, I wasn’t sure how many would be willing to help out. But the support has been phenomenal.”
To ask questions or for more information, call Parkview Elementary School at 675-2267.