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Read and Review


Maggie Estabrooks
St Thomas University
January 19 2017

Summary
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In his book the science of Harry Potter, Highfield takes a closer look at the magical

wizarding world author J.K Rowling created. With so many unbelievable phenomena in the

Harry Potter books people have questioned if we will ever see anything like it in real life.

Although there is not a concrete answer, there are plenty of discoveries that bring the world

closer wizardry. The author brings forth a lot of great examples to explain the similarities

between magic and science. Even the most outrageous of ideas begins an in-depth discussion

into an interesting scientific issue. Highfield takes complex scientific ideas and explains them in

a way that readers can understand and relate to.

One of the main themes in the Harry Potter series is that characters fly around on

broomsticks. Highfield reminds readers this is not a new idea, and that there are many ways in

which it could happen. Whether its flying the same way as an airplane or experiencing the

effects of hallucinogens, the possibility is out there. The characters get around in other ways as

well, like floo power, portkeys, and their ability to apparate. As the author points out these

options will not be available soon, but he explains the basis of the science needed for them to

become a reality. Other scientific points the author touched on were antigravity, teleportation,

wormholes, levitation, time travel and invisibility.

The novel is not simply limited to physics and math aspects of Harry Potter. The author

includes historical facts about witches, the Salem trials, and their early practices. Different

cultures also play a role in the science behind the magical world; from Rome to Greece and even

Mesoamerica where the popular game Quidditch may have roots. Psychology is even brought up

when the author discusses wizards divination class and the science behind superstitions. The

author brings in all these different fields of study to create a cross curricular and informative

book for students.


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Uses in a Science Classroom

This book would be a great addition to any classroom. Students starting as early as grade

two are interested in the Harry Potter series. If students are interested in this story it makes sense

for teachers to combine that topic with learning. Even though many students would be interested

in Highfields topic, the science may be too advanced for younger grades. Of course, there is

always the option of taking big concepts and simplifying it to meet students understanding. The

first example of this book being used in the classroom I think could start by grade three. During

the grade three science curricula they work on magnets. In chapter one, Highfield explains

levitation with a strong magnetic force. Even though students are learning the basics of

magnetics it could be an interesting experiment to do as a class near the end of the unit. Either

taking about what scientist are trying to get magnets to do or an experiment of trying to levitate

various small objects using magnets.

Although it is more of a middle school category, the grade six curriculum is best suited

for some of the topics mentioned in the book. One of the units is about classifying life; which

can include animals and other species. It would be interesting to discuss some of the creatures in

Harry Potter and how we could classify them. As Highfield mentions a lot of the creatures in the

series have traits of real animals, or a cross between different animals. Its not necessary to go in

depth with these in the classroom but it could be a fun assignment that combines the topics

theyre learning and the imagination of Harry Potter.

Another part of the grade six science curriculum is the flight unit. This unit ties in

extremely well with the chapter all about how to get a broomstick to fly. After learning all about

how drag, wing shape, lift and thrust principles they will understand how things become

airborne. At the end of the unit when they have a little more knowledge on flight we could do a
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fun research project. In groups, they could research what it would take to make a broomstick fly.

Of course, the results would not be as in depth as Highfields explanation. The students would

enjoy it and it would have them apply the knowledge they have been learning to an

unconventional object.

References

Highfield, R. (2002). The science of Harry Potter. New York, NY: Penguin Books.