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Saint Leo Blog

Harry Potter

Harry Potter Comes to Life in Unique Saint Leo Class

Posted by Greg Lindberg on Apr 18, 2019 10:14:27 AM

A photo of students in the Harry Potter carnival on Saint Leo's University Campus making potionsDo you consider yourself a “Potterhead,”, a common nickname for a big fan of the Harry Potter series? If so, you’d fit right into another Saint Leo Harry Potter course being offered at the university this spring.

A Double Dose of Instruction

The course has been team-taught by two faculty members, Dr. Kathryn Duncan and Dr. Jennifer Toole. Duncan has been a longtime English professor at Saint Leo, while Toole teaches in the university’s multimedia management program.

“We’re both very creative but in different ways, so it’s been a lot of fun collaborating with another instructor on the various projects in this class,” Toole says. “It’s truly been a blast.”

A Varied Curriculum

The course has offered a variety of exciting activities and events. First off, students read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and watched the film based on the book. They examined how this storyline was presented in writing through the book and visually through the movie, as well as how the two forms of media relate to each other.

“The big theme of this class is adaptation,” Toole says. “We look at how the story has changed over time ever since the first book was published and how the story has transitioned into other forms of media.”

Students attending a Harry Potter carnival and dropping coins in buckets for their favorite exhibits on Saint Leo's University CampusA Creative Harry Potter Carnival

The class then visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a popular Harry Potter-themed area at Universal Studios in Orlando. This led up to a major project in the course – arranging a Harry Potter-themed carnival at University Campus.

For this event, students were divided up into four groups, each representing a “house” within Hogwarts, the fictional school in the series. Each house had an interactive activity created by the students in each group.

“We learned in class that theme parks focus on immersion,” Duncan says. “So, through the carnival activity, the students were trying to immerse others in the world of Harry Potter.”

Each visitor to the carnival – fellow students, faculty and staff - received gold tokens that they placed in the House buckets, each of which looked like a witch’s cauldron. Using the tokens, they decided which interactive games they liked most at each House.

The students also learned about “extractability,” as in what a guest can take away from a theme park experience.

Another aspect of the carnival was that the students had to develop product ads for specific Harry Potter-related items. Visitors used separate coins to vote for which product ads they liked most based on which items they’d consider buying more than others. Each group then received “House points” according to how many coins and tokens they received.

“For this, the students had to design an advertisement using Canva for a specific Harry Potter product.” Duncan explains. One student, for instance, created an ad for a Dolores Umbridge punching bag, which was based on the main antagonist in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

In addition, the students had to create some videos and learned basic video recording and editing skills. There is also a feast at the end of the semester for which the students must prepare some type of Harry Potter food.

Sharing Their Passion for Harry Potter

Students majoring in English, history, marketing and accounting are just a few of those in the course.

“It’s been a blast to teach this class,” Toole says. “I’ve really enjoyed getting in front of students I normally wouldn’t have who are from different majors and programs. It’s such a diverse group, but they all share a love of Harry Potter.”

Kailee McLane took Duncan’s Saint Leo Harry Potter class in the fall of 2017 that we highlighted in this article. She is the only student getting to take both recent classes at Saint Leo on the J. K. Rowling series.

“Getting to learn how Harry Potter is still such a big part of our culture has been so interesting,” McLane says. “Being taught by Dr. Duncan and getting to go to Europe and then the Universal Studios park has been an amazing experience.”

The 21-year-old junior criminal justice major was part of the Slytherin House for the carnival event. Their interactive activity was “beer pong without the beer.” Upon completing her Saint Leo bachelor’s degree, McLane’s ultimate career goal is to be a police officer within the New York Police Department.

Students in Saint Leo's Harry Potter class participating in a Slytherin House scavenger hunt at Universal Studios in Orlando at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter park“It was cool seeing how the story really came to life at Universal Studios,” says Sean Ross, a 22-year-old senior marketing major. He was part of the Ravenclaw House that created “Butterbeer” and cupcakes. His product ad was for a Golden Snitch alarm clock.

A member of the Gryffindor House, Maria Miller is a 21-year-old senior English literature major. She says she basically grew up with the series.

“I was raised with Harry Potter,” Miller explains. “My parents read it to me when I was little before I could even read”.

Her favorite book in the series is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the same one the students read in the course. She even supplied the DVD of the movie for her class.

“I like this one because it really shows the growth of Harry and is kind of a turning point in the series since the books start to become geared more toward adult readers. The funny thing is I was actually transitioning into adulthood around the same time as I was reading this.”

Based on what Miller has learned in the class, she adds that there’s a clear-cut difference between reading the books and watching the movies.

“With the books, you really have to visualize the characters and plot in your mind. The movies obviously have everything set in stone and visible.”

Liz Franzone, 20, is a sophomore English major. She represented the Hufflepuff House and dressed up as a witch for the carnival.

“At Universal, we learned how a theme park can immerse you in a whole different universe. There were people walking around in robes and carrying wands, and it really makes you feel like you’re in a Potter-verse.”

Learning how important teamwork is has been a big part of what she has taken away from the course.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to work well with others. We had to collaborate a lot on our potion-making project.”

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