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Magical Harry Potter camp brings Hogwarts to life

Jul 27, 2017 12:00PM ● Published by Kelly Cannon

Gilderoy Lockhart entertains campers during OWL Camp, presented by Salt Lake County Library Services. (Kelly Cannon/City Journals)

Gallery: Harry Potter Camp [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

For the week of July 10-15, the Viridian Events Center in West Jordan was transformed into the magical world of witches, wizards and all things Harry Potter. Called OWL Camp, the five day summer camp combined kids’ love of the Harry Potter books/movies with science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) based learning. 

Each day of the camp was based off a book in the Harry Potter series with the first day being “The Sorcerer’s Stone” and the second day being “Chamber of Secrets.” The final day was a combination of both “Order of the Phoenix” and “Half-Blood Prince.” The camp did not include “Deathly Hallows” because of the serious and tragic subject matter in the book. The campers attended classes throughout the day that corresponded to the book of the day. 

“So this is second year, which is based off of ‘Chamber of Secrets.’ We have a potions class today where they’re learning how to make slime,” said Nyssa Fleig, the library program manager for the Salt Lake County Library Services. “We also have a defense against the dark arts class where they are learning self-defense moves. We have herbology where they are learning how to make mandrakes.”

Various classes were taught by volunteers in the community. These included Utah State University Extension 4-H teaching herbology, Hogle Zoo teaching care of magical creatures, University of Utah graduate poetry students teaching charms and Family Tae Kwon Do teaching defense against the dark arts. 

“There are two components to OWL Camp. One is the STEAM classes that goes from 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. They have four classes each day,” Fleig said. “The other part is the immersive experience. We really want them to feel like they are going to Hogwarts.”

In addition to the classes, the “Chamber of Secrets” day also included a guest appearance by Gilderoy Lockhart and a basilisk on display. Kids could also download an interactive version of the Marauder’s Map. 

At the end of each day, family and friends of the campers could come and take a trip to Hogsmeade where local businesses set up shops full of fun treats and trinkets. 

The idea for OWL Camp stemmed from other successful Harry Potter programs put on by the library services. 

“We’ve done movie release launches and book release launches and midnight parties. We’ve done an annual Yule Ball for the past five years. It happens in January and it’s just for the teens,” Fleig said. “We’ve always had a lot of success with Harry Potter themed programs. It’s a great combination of literacy and fandom and we get to add a little STEAM education so it was a great fit. We wanted to build on the success of the programs.”

Fleig said the library services wanted to try their hand at summer camp, explaining there are a lot of kids in the community who can’t attend traditional summer camp for a number of reasons.

“We wanted to meet that need in an environment that is free and accepting, that is flexible so they can feel welcome and they already have a connection with the fandom,” Fleig said.

Leading up to the camp, several library locations held special Diagon Alley shops where anyone, not just campers, could come in and make Harry Potter themed crafts. These included Pottage’s Cauldron Shop in Herriman, Magical Menagerie at Bingham Creek, Ollivander’s Wand Making in Holladay, Weasly’s Wizard Wheezes in Hunter, Jokes and Pranks in Sandy, Sock Puppet Pets in Tyler and U-No-Poo Craft and Scramble in West  Jordan. 

Fleig hoped the campers built confidence and learned a new skill they didn’t have before attending the camp. She also hoped it made an impact on the summer slide.

“We already known that when they get out in the spring and when they go back in the fall, a lot of kids end up behind,” Fleig said. “We’re hoping this is just one more opportunity where they can learn and keep those skills strong.” 

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