While many kids across the globe wait and eagerly hope to get a letter of acceptance from Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s school of magic, a few lucky students recently had the chance to attend the first of a series of magical training courses at a Hogwarts-themed S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) summer camp at the new Studio 697 in Sierra Vista.
“In the muggle world, they call this a chemical reaction,” explained Hogwarts headmaster and Studio 697 assistant creative director Michelle Henretta to a group of awed students clad in Hogwarts robes and wielding wands as their cauldrons bubbled to reveal the color of each student’s Hogwarts house. “Science in the muggle (non-magical) world is just like magic.”
Studio 697 was established by Henretta and Jen Dorris as an “art co-op” for teachers to conduct their own classes; both schedule out the building and teach their own classes. A former special education teacher and Harry Potter aficionado, Henretta says she was inspired to start her four-week Hogwarts program to introduce kids to subjects not always able to be covered in school in ways that will engage students.
“Schools are focusing on the reading and writing and they’re not always able to reach the sciences as much as they would like, so this way the kids get some of the things they just aren’t able to do inside of the classroom,” she said.
Combining her affinity for teaching and vast knowledge of the Harry Potter world of wizardry, Henretta expertly maintains the magical appearance and fun of the experiments while teaching her students about the science behind them — in this case, the reaction between acids and bases.
“The academy has aspects of all the parts of S.T.E.A.M. under one theme to focus it for the kids, so they don’t realize that (learning) is what they’re doing,” Henretta said. “I make it fun, and make sure they learn a little bit.”
Some other magical experiments planned for the remainder of the four-week course include practicing the levitation charm “Wingardium Leviosa” with magnetic wands and explaining invisibility with light refraction.
As evidenced by the student-crafted wands and quill pens, Henretta seeks to incorporate the arts into her classes, a subject often cut from school curriculums as districts face ever-tightening budgets. While a lot of summer camps like to emphasize S.T.E.M programs, not including arts, Henretta said she realizes the importance of letting kids express their creativity and the role that the arts can play in conjunction with math-based subjects.
“The program includes math and science, which are important,” she said, “but also the arts, which is just as important in things like engineering, having the imagination needed for inventing and all that.”
According to the wizards-in-training, Henretta has succeeded in allowing her students to not only learn, but have a blast doing it.
“This is a pretty cool class!” exclaimed Gage Chapman, an 8-year-old Gryffindor, at the end of the first course.
Though he claims he doesn’t quite feel like a real wizard yet, Gage said having his newly made wand and quill in hand assures him that he will be quite wizard-like by the end of four weeks.
Henretta is offering S.T.E.A.M camps with various themes throughout June and July. Up to 15 students can register for each session for $35, which includes one class a week for four weeks. More information about classes offered at the studio and how to register with individual instructors can be found on the Studio 697 Facebook page or by contacting Henretta at firstname.lastname@example.org.