Using Harry Potter Storytelling to Make Science Accessible
Using fiction and storytelling helps kids realize there doesn’t need to be a hard line between being creative and loving math and science
I have always hated math and science. Which is funny, because my mother was a mathematician, and my father is a well-respected professor of microbiology and a published author. Growing up, we had summers filled with hands-on science camps, access to behind-the-scenes workings in University research labs, and it was common for scientists to just show up for dinner. Both of my sisters grew up loving math and science. One sister earned an MD/PhD and is a pediatrician and a published medical writer. My other sister shares her love of math as a district-awarded math teacher. I was deemed “creative”. I loved reading books and making up stories. I always thought if I was a “creative person”, I couldn’t be a “math or a science person” too. Most people felt the same way, and I was ushered down a different path. I still wonder how things may have turned out differently if I had been taught the creative connections in math and science.
Math and Science as tools of Creativity We started The Laboratory Collective because I wanted to create a space where kids like me were able to recognize how math and science relate to things they are naturally excited about. Here, we immerse students in the imaginary worlds from their favorite stories where math and science are key to bringing these worlds to life. We don’t do experiments just for the sake of doing experiments, but students are invested in the outcomes because it helps them problem-solve, make connections, and move forward within the story. Using science, kids are recreating the worlds into something tangible that they can see, feel, and experience.
Why Harry Potter? Our Harry Potter-inspired camp was the first camp we ever developed at The Laboratory Collective. So many kids (and adults!) wish that a world like Hogwarts really existed. The Laboratory shows students how to make it come alive through science. We create an immersive world where the moment kids enter, they are sorted into Chicago-based Houses, get striped scarves and are paired with a stuffed owl. They learn Latin-based spells, use “alchemy” to create gold Galleons, breed Pygmy Puffs, make potions, Care for Magical Creatures, and solve a mystery when a dark wizard breaks in to The Laboratory Collective. What they’re really learning are advanced concepts of: Oxidation-Reduction Reactions, Mendelian Genetics, Atomic Structure and Energy levels, Natural Selection and Adaptation, and Gravitational Potential Energy. Plus, mathematical concepts of ratios, solving for a variable (Algebra) and calculating area and volume (Geometry). Connecting science and math to things students already love allows them to find personal meaning in the lessons, engage more deeply, and make the learning really stick. Immersive Narration connects students who are not normally drawn to math and science, and it encourages students who are more “science-minded” to think more creatively. As one student told us “I don’t need to choose between being creative and doing science”.