Kimberley Hardin’s favorite Harry Potter series character is Hermione Granger—a smart girl like her. Or maybe the brave Harry Potter, himself. But werewolf professor Remus Lupin is one of her favorites, too.
Whoever her favorite character is, Kimberley was excited to be sorted into Ravenclaw House Wednesday morning and to attend a potions class—just like she read about in the J.K. Rowling books.
She was among the eight students in Amie Canter’s second- and third-grade class from the Merit School in Stafford who visited the University of Mary Washington to learn about the subtle science and exact art of chemistry in an engaging way with assistant professor of chemistry Leanna Giancarlo.
Canter’s class, called Advanced Concepts for a Better Future, takes accelerated students and helps them delve into in-depth subjects. Last year, their concept was government and students met with mayors and went to the White House. This year, students wanted to learn about being doctors, so they have dissected sharks with UMW’s biologists and are beginning to learn chemistry.
“It helps them focus and drives their interests,” she said. “It helps them determine what path they might take later in life.”
The class also has advanced readers who just finished the third book in the series: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Giancarlo didn’t exactly teach the students how to “bottle fame” or “brew glory” like in the books.
Instead she taught them about the three states of matter: gases, liquids and solids. She then showed them the properties of those states through Lego demonstrations and by acting out how molecules behave.
“Can you see a gas?” she asked them.
“No,” the class shouted back.
“Kind of like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak,” she said.
They nodded along in apparent comprehension.
She then had them don wizarding robes (lab coats) and spectacles (protective goggles) to do Harry Potter-themed experiments using household items like water, baking soda, lemon juice, glue and food coloring.
The students of Gryffindor House—Anthony Watkins and Katerina Canning—made Harry Potter’s Foam and Neville Longbottom’s Magic Mystery.
“It’s so good!” Katerina exclaimed about the experiments when she and Anthony used corn starch to turn their liquid solution solid.
The deal Giancarlo gave the students: If their potions resulted in all three basic forms of matter, they could stay in her class instead of attending potions with Professor Severus Snape, a character from the books.
The students sorted into Hufflepuff House were Sajeela Ahmad and Sophia Samsa.
Sophia said she liked being a Hufflepuff because “they are helpful and I like helping.”
But potions isn’t her favorite aspect of the book.
“It’s so cool,” she said. “Hermione has a Time-Turner.”
The students representing Slytherin House were Kaleb Carter and Gavin Wheeler. Like the other students, their experiments were turning out two states of matter, either a liquid and a gas which they could see through bubbles, or a solid and a liquid.
Kimberley and fellow Ravenclaw Marlee Howell saw that, too. Their Hermione Granger’s Gel turned out a red solid, as did their Luna Lovegood’s Oozing Goo.
“I recognize that from anywhere,” Marlee said. “That’s goo, so that a solid!”
Only Giancarlo’s solo experiment turned out all three states. She demonstrated to the students how dissolving dry ice in water creates a solution with a solid, a liquid and a gas all at once.
“They should learn young about everything,” Giancarlo said about teaching the students advanced concepts. “It’s fun for them. And it’s important to spark new knowledge early so they continue learning through middle school, when this sort of interest typically drops off.”