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The City Journals

Literacy night magical for Silver Mesa witches, wizards

May 30, 2019 02:58PM ● By Julie Slama

Local artist Vaughn Emett taught students how to cast spells at the Silver Mesa School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s literacy night. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Using the Marauder’s Map, young witches and wizards successfully learned about muggle studies, ancient runes, care of magical creatures, divination, defense against the dark arts, potions and other subjects as they made their way to Ollivanders, where they created their magical wands at Silver Mesa School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

As nearly 1,000 people — students and their families, many in their robes — came to the third annual Harry Potter-themed literacy night, they were able to create magical opportunities through activities tied to literacy, said PTA organizer Mary Ann Curtis.

“It gets bigger and bigger every year,” she said. “There are month-long activities that cumulates with this night.”

For the month of March, students “kept engaged, and were excited, when they were reading their minutes and doing literacy activities to earn hundreds of points for their houses,” Curtis said, adding that students were separated into four houses, similar to the Harry Potter book series. 

Fifth-grade teacher Amy Sandgren agreed that literacy month motivated students to read.

“Students double to quadruple the amount of time they read each night,” she said.

Curtis said students could take part in several activities, such as writing a note and sending it with a stuffed owl to the principal to writing their own play. 

“We love to inspire and build the excitement for our students to read,” Curtis said. “It’s a time of the year when we want kids to reengage and read more and hope it will extend into the summer.”

Tying into the theme, the school held its annual Quidditch tournament — this year, extending the contest for two weeks.

More than 75 volunteers, including teens who had attended the event previously or heard about it and wanted to pitch in, helped at the March 19 literacy night. Several other organizations and people contributed to making the event successful, including Salt Lake Community College’s Community Writing Center, which held workshops on writing fiction, poetry and scripts; Nelson Labs, running the potions workshop; local artist Vaughn Emett, who taught participants about magical spells and created bookmarks with them; Scales and Tales, who brought with them magical creatures for the students to learn about; and a student band from Hillcrest High, teaching students about musical literacy.

“We had a lot of people from neighborhoods who came here and don’t have children who attend the school, because it is a community event and a chance for them to explore the magic that comes from reading,” Curtis said.

The Thackeray family came, where 6-year-old Ruby made a potion necklace and a wand.

“It’s even more amazing than previous years,” her mother, Ali, said. “It’s a great opportunity to see friends, listen to music, discover some creative ways to engage kids in reading. I really like this year’s moving pictures.”

The moving pictures were a new addition to the night’s activities. With the use of an iPad, loaded with an app that ed tech specialist Katie Schmoldt discovered, students could aim the device at photos of teachers holding their favorite books and listen to them talk about why they like to read and which book are their favorites.

Students could use iPads with a special app loaded on them to discover teachers’ favorite books at Silver Mesa’s annual Harry Potter-themed literacy night. (Julie Slama/City Journals)


Students also could try out the new green room, a chance to tell their own tales or reenact one of Harry Potter’s in front of a camera, which was coordinated by accommodated core teacher Lisa Hayes, Curtis said.

“People really liked the addition of technology and bringing in more literacy activities — that still tied to the Harry Potter theme,” she said.

However, some witches and wizards still dashed to make their wands first.

Fifth grader Cate Lee was one of them.

“Last year, they ran out of wands so I went there early,” Cate said. “I can duel with the wand and cast spells with it. I also went to a fortune teller and learned that I have a personality that doesn’t take risks, but I do listen to directions.”

Classmate Aida Simon was with her.

“I love this event. It’s a tradition here and there is a lot of fun activities tied to the Harry Potter series,” she said.

Aida’s sister, third grader Leah, said her favorite station was potions.

“I wrote a secret message in snake language and rolled it up in a bottle and put in my necklace,” she said.

Throughout the night, students also could get their photos with some of the Harry Potter characters such as Dumbledore or Hagrid, try a butterbeer at Honeyduke’s or go on a scavenger hunt, which is what third grader Claire Fauver did.

“On the scavenger hunt, I learned some cool spells and saw sparkles go up,” she said.

Principal Julie Fielding said the entire month and event are motivating.

“The students get super excited and want to do more reading and more activities related to literacy,” she said. “Each year, it continues to grow. This is a well-loved tradition.”