Monticello High School English teachers celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter books with a special Harry Potter Night for fourth and fifth grade students on Feb. 21. We asked teacher Shannon Bicknell to fill us in on the event, which was held at in the high school commons.


Journal-Republican: How many years have you held this event?

Bicknell: This is the one and only year we put this on. Lois Doherty, the Washington and MMS librarian, came up with the idea to have some sort of event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and thought it would be a great way for multiple schools in the district to collaborate. While the anniversary was technically in 2018, we decided to plan the event for February 2019 because we thought it would be a fun break from the gray winter weather. I brought the idea to my MHS Book Club students, who helped me decide on activities. I then pulled all those ideas together to create a timeline and structure for the hour-long event.


J-R: It looked like kids were assigned a house and got wands and robes? What else did they do at the event?

Bicknell: The students chose their houses in advance, and many students chose to dress in character and wear their own robes and costumes. When they arrived, they received their official Hogwarts acceptance letters, Platform 9 3/4 tickets, and house badges.

Once they entered "Hogwarts" (the MHS cafeteria) through our Platform 9 3/4, they were treated to assorted refreshments: edible mandrakes made out of crushed Oreos and Sour Patch Kids that we put in tiny pots, edible golden snitches made out of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, and a drinkable potion made out of lemon-lime soda, pineapple juice, and sherbet.

The hour-long event then took the students through four different "classes" (stations). They attended Transfiguration, where they made their own Marauder’s Maps and used highlighters and DIY black lights to make the invisible text glow. They then attended Care of Magical Creatures, where they decorated their own dragon eggs. They also attended Defense Against the Dark Arts and made their own wands using chopsticks and glow-in-the-dark bracelets. And last but not least, they faced off in a game of Quidditch that we set up with hula hoops.

At the end of the event, the students gathered on the cafeteria steps to "hatch" their dragon eggs. Once they opened them, three lucky students discovered that a 1, 2, or 3 was written inside their eggs. These students won gift certificates to Monticello’s new bookstore, Hartfield Book Co.

J-R: Why do you do this?

Bicknell: When Lois brought up the idea of celebrating the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, I knew my MHS Book Club students would love the idea and would want to help plan the event. We all thought it would be a great way to collaborate and promote reading, creativity, and imagination. My MHS Book Club students helped make all the signs, set up the event, and also "taught" some of the classes during the event. They worked really hard, and I’m very proud of them.


J-R: What other teachers/staff helped with it?

Bicknell: Megan Howard, MHS English teacher, volunteered and was a huge help. She helped us set up the activities and put together the mandrake snacks. She also "taught" one of the Care of Magical Creatures classes for us. Jennifer Smith and her MMS Makerspace students planned a potion experiment demo, so our "Hogwarts" students were also able to take a Potions class with the MMS students as teachers. We also had 10 MMS Rebecca Caudill students that Mrs. Doherty works with who helped. They acted as "prefects" and lead groups of 5-6 Washington students around to the different activities.


J-R: Are you personally a fan of Harry Potter books, etc? Why?

Bicknell: I am very much a Harry Potter fan. I have read all the books multiple times and own all the movies. I think I was initially attracted to the books because of the intricate design of the fantasy world. They are books that are beautifully written but also touch on timeless themes, like the power of friendship and that with perseverance good can triumph evil.


J-R: About how many took part?

Bicknell: In total, we had 50 Washington students attend. Approximately 12 MMS and 12 MHS students helped with the event.