Science with Harry Potter: Alchemy, Astronomy, & Divination (Geology)

Science with Harry Potter: Alchemy @EvaVarga.net Alchemy 

Alchemy is an elective taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry concerning the study of the four basic elements, as well as the study of the transmutation of substances. It is intimately connected with potion-making and chemistry but for purposes of clarity, this post will focus on transformation of rocks and minerals.

I’m particularly interested in Transfiguration, you know, turning something into something else, of course, it’s supposed to be very difficult.” —Hermione Granger regarding transformation

There are many myths and legends about the formation of the rocks of the Earth or about the rocks themselves. Every culture has its own beliefs about specific stones and those beliefs are often tied to that culture’s history, geography, and spiritual practices.

For this class students are required to become familiar with the many magical properties of common stones. Begin by writing the definitions for igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rock in a notebook. Include a detailed sketch of the rock cycle.

Additionally, create a two-page spread for each stone studied. Include the following information for each:

  1. photo or sketch
  2. list any historical or literary references to the gemstone
  3. describe the process by which it is formed
  4. list its magical properties

Some stones to consider are:

  • Agate
  • Quartz
  • Ruby
  • Opal
  • Flint
  • Moonstone
  • Jade
  • Obsidian

Put together a collection of rocks and minerals. Identify and label each as igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary.

Take it Further

Learn to play Marbles, generally a Muggle game. Wizards play a variant known as Gobstones, where the enchanted marbles spit a putrid fluid into the face of the loser.

Science with Harry Potter: Potions @EvaVarga.net Astronomy & Divination

At Hogwart’s, Divination is an elective course that teaches methods of divining the future, or gathering insights into future events, through various rituals and tools. For the purposes of this course, we will focus on the ancient tools used by early navigators particularly in regards to the study of astronomy.

Generally out-of-bounds except for classes, the Astronomy Tower is the tallest tower at Hogwarts Castle. It is where students study the stars and planets through their telescopes with Professor Aurora Sinistra.

A Star chart is a written document used to represent the positions and movements of the stars, much like a map. Astronomers usually use these for research or study. An O.W.L. level wizard should be able of fill in a blank star chart based on some hours of sky gazing.

Similarly, a Moon chart is used to represent the position, movement and phases of the Moon. However, it is difficult to interpret and thus a Lunascope is often preferred.

Begin by researching the constellations common in your hemisphere and/or those referenced in the books.

Illustrate each cluster of stars in your notebook and make note of when the constellation was first discovered and how it was named. Include the names of the distinct stars (if possible).  Constellations to consider include:

  • Orion
  • Bartholomeus
  • Lupus
  • Leo
  • Ophiuchus
  • Canis Major
  • Scorpius

Create personal chart (also referred to as a birth chart) showing the relative positions of the planets at the time of an individual’s birth.

If possible, obtain a telescope with which you can observe the planets and distant stars.

Take it Further

Create a model of our solar system. Include the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and other major planets.

Make an illustrated wall timeline of geologic time.

Draw maps of the earth at various times in history, showing movements of the tectonic plates. Include time periods that show Pangaea, Laurasia and Gondwanaland, and the modern arrangement of continents.

Illustrate the layers of the atmosphere in a poster. Label and describe each layer.

This post is part of a five-day hopscotch. Join me each day this week as we dive into each course.

Herbology (Botany)

Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology)

Potions (Chemistry)

Alchemy & Divination (Geology) – this post

Magical Motion (Physics)

Science with Harry Potter: Potions (Chemistry)

Potions have always been essential in magic. Stories of witches tell of brewing magical drinks that turn men into mindless animals, restore youth, and make the drinker invisible. Other potions caused false emotion to be created such as when Ron Weasley declares his Love Potion-induced feelings for Romilda Vane.

I don’t expect many of you to appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is potion-making… I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death.” ~ Professor Severus Snape

First year students will learn many skills that will be important for potion making. Advanced students will apply these skills to the development of a Marauder’s map and wizard wands.

Science with Harry Potter: Potions @EvaVarga.netA wizard or witch who specializes in potion brewing is known as a potioneer or a potions master.

In this course, students are expected to keep a journal to record what has been done (including ingredients, procedures, spells, chants, etc) and reflect upon what was learned.

Print a periodic table of the elements and put it into your notebook. On the facing page sketch out elements 1-10, use color-coding for protons, neutrons, and electrons.

Potions

Knowledge of potions and charms is a powerful weapon against dark forces. Learn about ions, ionic and covalent bonds, and compounds. Write the definitions in your notebook.

Prepare each of the potions described below and record your observations. Illustrate as desired.

Potion 1: Goblin Slobber

Goblin slobber is a potion which is particularly effective against being followed through woods and caves. Just drip some goblin slobber on the path behind you and anything that is chasing you will be driven away.

  • One flask of water
  • ¼ measure instant goblin slobber(dehydrated)
  • 1 full measure Manticore milk
  • 1 full measure water
  • 3 drops goblin blood

Cauldron (mixing bowl will do if you have not yet received your cauldron)

1. Rehydrate the goblin slobber:Pour the instant goblin slobber into the flask of water. Stir briskly with wand to dissolve while chanting “soluloso aqualitem.” Repeat until fully dissolved.

2. Into the manticore milk pour the measure of water and the goblin blood and stir, repeating incantation.

3. The final step is to pour the two solutions into the cauldron and stir well chanting “goblinatum sloberosum.” You may need to adjust the quantities, so add them slowly.

Muggles will know these ingredients as: Instant goblin slobber= Borax. Manticore milk= Elmer’s glue. Goblin blood= green food coloring. flask=quart, measure=cup

Potion 2: Muggle Paper

This bright yellow potion gives you the ability to detect whether someone is muggle or magic.

  • 1 vial nettle nectar
  • 1/4 vial (approx) ground dragon scale
  • filter paper
  • Veritaserum

1. Put your filter paper into the cauldron.

2. Dissolve the ground dragon scale into the nettle nectar, shaking well to dissolve.

3. Pour over top of paper, allowing it to soak in well.

4. Remove paper from cauldron and hang to dry. Dust off any left over dragon scale.

5. Once paper is dry, dip right hand into Veritaserum (pour it into a bowl) and place directly onto paper with a slap.

6. Your true bloodline will be revealed!

Muggles will know these ingredients as: Nettle nectar= rubbing alcohol, ground dragon scale= turmeric, and veritaserum= baking soda and water solution.

Potion 3: Instant Ocean

This potion is very useful for creating a peaceful seaside vacation atmosphere in a small space. If made properly you can see the tiny waves and sea-foam inside the flask. This potion should be done in a place where messes are not a problem in case of sloppy magic by first year students. A calming charm may be needed in case of storms at sea.

  • Narrow-necked flask
  • 2 vials Midsummer Dewdrops
  • 1/2 dribble Kraken slime
  • 3-4 drops of Squeaking-Squid ink
  • 1 teaspoon Pulverized Narwhal Horn dissolved in ~2 tablespoons very warm water
  • Funnel
  • Large Cauldron

1. Stand flask in cauldron with funnel in top

2. Add 3-4 drops of squid ink to the Midsummer dew, shake well to mix

3. pour through the funnel into the flask

4. Add the Kraken slime to the mixture in the flask.

5. Pour the narwhal horn mixture into the bottle and remove the funnel.

Muggles will know these ingredients by their common names: hydrogen peroxide, dawn detergent (preferably green), blue food coloring, and yeast.

Marauder’s Map

In the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, what first appears to be a blank piece of parchment becomes a magical Marauder’s Map. In this lesson, students create their own invisible inks, they learn what acids, bases and indicators are and how they can be used.

Begin by drawing a pH scale in your notebook. Use your “muggle” paper (created with Potion 2) to test a variety of substances around the house (vinegar, wine, lemon juice, baking soda, cola, bleach, ammonia, milk, etc). Make a table in your notebook showing your results. If you have litmus papers you can use them as well.

With your knowledge of acids and bases, create a map of your own using an ink you have devised.

Wizard Wands

Wands have been mentioned throughout time. Popular fantasy stories from a variety of origins have featured characters using wands. It could thereby be reasoned that Ollivander’s (makers of fine wands since 382 B.C.) had provided them.

To begin, learn about molecules and sketch several in your notebook (water, carbon dioxide, methane, glucose, etc.) Consider making models with gum drops or balls of clay and toothpicks.

There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class. ” ~ Professor Snape on Potions class

Explosive Enterprises is a line of fireworks sold at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. This group of fireworks included the original Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-Bangs as well as a variety of new and creative pyrotechnic products created by Fred Weasley and his twin brother George.

This post is part of a five-day hopscotch. Join me each day this week as we dive into each course.

Herbology (Botany)

Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology)

Potions (Chemistry) – this post

Alchemy & Divination (Geology)

Magical Motion (Physics)

Science with Harry Potter: Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology)

Care of Magical Creatures is an elective at Hogwarts, available to upper classmen. Throughout the course, students learn about a wide range of magical creatures and are taught about the care and husbandry.

Similar to herbology, the further into a student’s education the more difficult and dangerous the creatures become. The witches and wizards who succeed in the subject later become Magizoologists, like Newt Scamander.

Magical CreaturesFor this class students are required to become familiar with the many magical creatures you may encounter both at Hogwarts and in the outside world. Students should begin with the following:

  • Owl
  • Hippogriff
  • Phoenix
  • Unicorn
  • Werewolf
  • Centaur
  • Basilisk
  • Elf

C’mon, now, get a move on! Got a real treat for yeh today! Great lesson comon’ up! Everyone here? Right, follow me!” ~ Rubeus Hagrid at his first Care of Magical Creatures lesson

Students are required to keep a field notebook in which a two-page spread is created for each magical creature studied. For each magical creature you study:

  1. Make a sketch of the creature, labeling important features
  2. List any historical or literary references to the creature
  3. Describe its natural habitat
  4. Discuss its habits, temperament, and relationship to humans
  5. List its magical properties
  6. Explain the care and feeding of the creature

Advanced students may choose additional magical creatures to study. Take care to choose wisely, as your knowledge of magical creatures could one day prevent a terrible injury or death.

Magical Properties of Dragons

You’ve likely already discovered the magical property of dragon scales while researching and preparing your field notes above. Now you will learn about the properties of dragon skin and dragon down (the fluffy feathers from underneath the wing).

Young wizards and witches should have adult supervision as all parts of a dragon are highly flammable. A fire-proof cauldron is advised.

Dragon Skin: take thin slices of dragon skin and hold them next to an open flame. Bend the skin, squeezing until it bursts. You should see tiny sparks fly as the fire-breathing properties are released. This should be done very close to the flame.

Dragon Down: Put a small quantity of dragon down into a cauldron. Touch the end of a 9 volt battery lightly to the down to release the fire-breathing properties.

(Note to professors: muggles will know these items as orange peel and steel wool.)

Genetics

Students watch a video clip from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to learn about genetic traits. Specifically, they realize that the ability to speak parseltongue (being able to speak to snakes) is a genetic trait possessed by some characters and their parents. Students explore the use of Punnett squares to predict trait inheritance, learning about genotypes and phenotypes.

This post is part of a five-day hopscotch. Join me each day this week as we dive into each course.

Herbology (Botany)

Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology) – this post

Potions (Chemistry)

Alchemy & Divination (Geology)

Magical Motion (Physics)

Science with Harry Potter: Herbology – The study of plants and fungi (Botany)

Herbology is the study of magical and mundane plants and fungi. It is a core class and subject taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the first five years of a student’s education.

herbology

Herbology

Throughout each term, students learn to care for plants as well as learn about their magical properties and how they may be used medicinally. The further into a student’s education the more difficult and dangerous the plants become.

“Three times a week they went out to the greenhouses behind the castle to study Herbology, with a dumpy little witch called Professor Sprout, where they learned how to take care of strange plants and fungi, and found out what they were used for.” ~ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

All first year students are required to familiarize themselves with the herbs listed below.

  • Chamomile
  • Tarragon
  • Yarrow
  • Caraway
  • Horseradish
  • Dill
  • Aloe Vera
  • Silver Birch
  • Garlic
  • Tumeric

herbologyAs students work through their self-guided journey, they are required to keep a field notebook in which a two-page spread is created for each plant or fungi studied. Each spread is required to include the following information:

  1. Give common name as well as Latin names (genus and species) and family
  2. Press a specimen of the plant (if possible)
  3. Make a sketch of the plant, colored appropriately
  4. Label key parts of the plant, pointing out important features
  5. Explain its cultivation and care
  6. Give a brief natural history of the plant (describe growth cycle, natural range, etc.)
  7. List its household and medicinal uses both presently and historically
  8. Describe its magical properties (if any)

Take it Further

Enjoy a cup of Chamomile tea before bedtime or a glass of birch beer with your noonday meal.

Explore the many wildcrafting and herbal remedies described at Learning Herbs.

Enjoy the fun board game, Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure.

Research the native plants in your local area and learn how native peoples used them for food and medicine.

Visit a native elder, if possible, and learn to how to harvest and prepare these plants for personal use.

As you advance in your studies, be sure to add each new plant to your journal.

This post is part of a five-day hopscotch. Join me each day this week as we dive into each course.

Herbology (Botany) – this post

Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology)

Potions (Chemistry)

Alchemy & Divination (Geology)

Magical Motion (Physics)

Finding Harry Potter at the MET with Watson Adventures

We rejoiced when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child arrived at our doorstep last month. We had been following the opening of the two-part play in England on social media and anxiously awaited the ne book to be released here in the states on July 31st, Harry Potter’s Birthday.

Anytime we come to the final chapter of a beloved book, we are a little remorseful to say goodbye to our favorite characters. We wanted to continue living in the magical world so beautifully imagined by JK Rowling.

met-watson-adventures
I was provided tickets in exchange for an honest review; please see my disclosure policy for details.

I first learned of Watson Adventures while in San Francisco years ago for Chinese New Year. We had observed several small groups of people racing through Chinatown on an unique scavenger hunt, seeking answers to thoughtful trivia questions. Watching their enthusiasm and hearing their high praise, I tucked the little bit of information away. I knew this was something I wanted to experience.

While planning our itinerary for our East coast holiday, I took a peak at the Watson Adventures website I had earlier pinned to a Pinterest board. Much to my delight, a public scavenger hunt was available during our stay in New York City. There were many hunts to choose from, the difficultly was choosing.

A few of the many Watson Adventures Public Scavenger Hunts in New York:

watson-adventures-metHarry Potter & The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt

When I glimpsed the title, The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt, I knew immediately this was the experience for us. This scavenger hunt would provide us the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of young wizards on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in search of works that echo characters, places, and enchanted objects in the famed Harry Potter books and movies. What better way to celebrate, share in the love of the book, and discover the Met?!

The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt is designed for kids and adults to do together, but all-adult teams are allowed to compete separately. Kids must be accompanied by adults. For ages 10 and up.

We joined the The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt on September 17th at the MET in New York City. There were several others teams – both family and adult teams – competing. Two family teams were taking part as a birthday celebration for one of the young participants. We were encouraged to come up with creative team names and the most creative team was awarded bonus points.

I was very impressed with how well Michael and his assistant Shannon organized the teams and explained everything. There were only a few rules – essentially: No running. Teams must stay together. Don’t touch the art. We were given 90 minutes to complete the 24 question quest and we were off!

Fortunately, each team was assigned a different question with which to start. When we did meet other teams along the course, tensions rose. “Oh no! They are catching up with us. We have to hurry!”

Their scavenger hunts use witty, tricky questions in fast-paced games that bring out the best in a fascinating place—and the best in you and your teammates. The hunts are like walking tours spiked with caffeine.

Racing against other family teams, we hunted through the MET for Hagrid-like giants, centaurs, and unicorns that would feel at home in the Forbidden Forest. References to the books provided a surprising bridge to many strange and wonderful works of art. The Cursed Child provided us with new hints and tidbits. Not to worry, there were no spoilers!

The questions weren’t easy, however. One point was awarded for each correct answer (no points off for wrong answers). The team with the highest score wins! There was strong competition and amongst the five family teams competing, the scores ranged from 18-22. We didn’t win the coveted Watson Adventure medal (shown here with the winning family team) but we had a fabulous time. We all agreed we would love to take part in another if we ever get the chance. It was certainly a highlight of our trip.

watson-adventures-winnersTell Me More About Watson Adventures

Bret Watson started creating scavenger hunts in the early ’90s as a way to share his unique take on the lighter side of museums with his friends. Word began to spread and it wasn’t long before Watson Adventures sprung to life.The scavenger hunts are open to the general public on weekends and are available in seven cities:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • New York City
  • Philadelphia
  • San Francisco
  • Washington DC

Private hunts are also available for large groups just about anywhere. The scavenger hunts are played on teams of up to six people. Advance purchase is required for all hunts. To purchase tickets online, select a city or a hunt and go to the hunt calendar.

 

Stamp Collecting: Merit Badges & Championships

My son recently joined Scouts and we’ve thus been immersed in learning about the history and opportunities provided to members. Everyone is likely familiar with the merit badge system whereby Scouts can learn about sports, handcrafts, science, trades, business, and future careers. Did you realize there are more than 100 merit badges?

Stamp Collecting Merit Badge

The merit badge system, I discovered was a huge motivating factor for my son. It is not surprising that the first two merit badges he chose to earn were swimming and music. He breezed through the requirements for each and was soon ready to tackle another.

stampcollectingmeritbadgesThis time he chose stamp collecting – one of the rarest badges earned. I thereby volunteered to serve as the merit badge counselor and thereby guide the interested scouts through badge requirements. Not surprisingly, only two others joined us.

Delightfully, the Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs has a Boy Scout stamp collecting merit badge PowerPoint presentation available on its website. It follows, in order, the requirements from the merit badge book and thus introduces new philatelists to the hobby with ease.

I had enough stamps from which each of the boys were able to sort through and find everything they needed to complete the merit badge requirements. They just need to put their projects together. :)

Stamp Collecting & Exhibiting

My children and I have been avid stamp collectors for years and we have learned so much along the way. We got started in earnest shortly after we had moved to Redding, California and learned of a collector who wanted to pass on his collection of world stamps to a young child interested in learning about stamp collecting.

We reached out to him and spent an afternoon learning the ins and outs of philately. We discovered that philatelists collect a wide variety of different material – while many collect stamps from a single country, others collect stamps on a variety of topics, and others focus solely on cancellation marks. It really is very diverse!

stamp collectingStamp Collecting Championships

We soon discovered that thematic collecting was our preferred approach. Over the past five years, the kids and I have put together numerous exhibits to showcase stamps and philatelic material expressing our individual interests.

They have entered their exhibits in local shows in both California (NOVAPEX) and Oregon (SOPEX) as well as regional and national shows around the country. In doing so, they have met many wonderful people (dealers, other exhibitors, and judges).

Jeffrey’s Exhibits

  • Aeronautics
  • How the Engine Changed the World
  • Bridges of the World
  • Maersk Group*

Geneva’s Exhibits

  • Birds of the World*
  • Lunar New Year*
  • Mythologies of the World
  • Folkloric Mysteries of Harry Potter*

My Exhibits

  • All About Me
  • Mythology of the Moon
  • Phylum Insecta
*Denotes exhibits that have won a youth grand award at a nationally accredited show and thereby qualified for the AAPE Youth Champion of Champions competition. Maersk Group and Folkloric Mysteries of Harry Potter will be competing head to head in August along with numerous other youth exhibitors.

The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas by iHomeschool NetworkInterested in learning how to integrate stamps into your curriculum? My article, How to Use Postage Stamps for Learning, was published in the Big Book of Homeschool Ideas.

55 homeschool moms contributed to The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. Providing you with inspiration and ideas that go beyond the basics of academics. Delve into delightful methods like active learning, learning with video games, using LEGO bricks for learning, teaching on the road, learning with movies, and gardening.

The eBook is available now for only $5.99.