Harry Potter Magic Will Enrich Summer Program at Davidson
In an inspired plot twist, Harry Potter will perform some magic for student "muggles" enrolled in a nationally recognized academic enrichment program at Davidson College this summer.
The fictional wizard-in-training, whose further exploits will be revealed to an impatient public on July 8 in a new book, learned to make the right choices during his education at Hogwarts School. Brenda Tapia, director of Davidson's Love of Learning program, will use Harry's fantasy world to teach her young students that choices will make or break them here in the real world as well. Based on her reading of the Harry Potter tales, Tapia selected "The Power Within - The Choice Is Yours," as the theme for this year's sessions.
Love of Learning is a holistic enrichment program designed to prepare students from a broad range of economic and cultural backgrounds for success in college and life beyond. Many of the 30 students enrolled each year are from single parent households, or would be the first members of their family to attend college. Love of Learning is unique nationally in its involvement of students for a five year-long curriculum, and its insistence on parental involvement in helping students overcome obstacles to their success.
Students enter the program as rising eighth graders, and remain enrolled until their admission to college. It includes a month-long summer session on the Davidson College campus during their middle three years of enrollment, and twice-monthly sessions all year long for all classes.
Tapia said she began developing the Harry Potter curriculum in January when she picked up The Sorcerer's Stone and couldn't stop reading. "I read all three of the books in one day," she said. "They highlight the same values we try to teach in our program, and give a tremendous boost to your creativity."
She assigned The Sorcerer's Stone as required reading for the students who will begin their Love of Learning on-campus session on Sunday, July 2.
This summer's entire Love of Learning family—students, teachers, counselor-mentors, and administrators—will be assigned to one of the four Hogswort "houses" in the Potter series. On the first day students will put on the "sorting hat" to find out if they will be a Slitherin, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, or Ravenclaw.
Love of Learning students have traditionally developed tight bonds within their classes during their five years of togetherness, and Tapia hopes that the cross-class house assignments will help them develop allegiances with students in other grades. Assigning counselor-mentors, faculty, and administrators to houses will give students additional opportunities to develop relationships with adult role models in the Love of Learning family.
Students will eat one meal per day with their housemates, gather for morning assembly under their house banner, and compete in quiz bowls as a house.
In addition, the houses will become the basis for Love of Learning's disciplinary program. Throughout the month, students will receive merits and demerits based on their behavior and initiative. Rather than assigning points to the individual, points will be assigned to the individual's house. A trophy honoring the winning house will be awarded at the end of the program on July 28. "This is intended to show students how every choice they make affects not only them, but everyone around them," explained Tapia. "It should foster a system in which students police each other's behavior, and encourage each other to do well, rather than having that discipline and encouragement come from the faculty and staff all the time."
The Potter books are "a wholesome alternative to pop culture," said Tapia. "Our kids are exposed to so much violence, and so many things they shouldn't have to see. Harry Potter brings back the innocence of childhood that I think we all need, whether we're 15 or 55."
To emphasize the importance of child-like honesty and openness, students at their initial Love of Learning gathering will be instructed to "take off their masks and leave them in a box by the door." They will also participate in the traditional Love of Learning "Hug Line" to show that healthy touching is an important ingredient in spiritual health.
Love of Learning's summer curriculum includes classes in English, science, math, and African-American history, as well as electives in public speaking, Spanish, newsletter/poetry, drama, dance, or vocal music. Students also receive training in leadership skills, health and wellness, spiritual development, and physical education.
Love of Learning began as a program exclusively for African-American students in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg school system, but now recruits students of all races from both public and private schools in several nearby counties. Thanks to support from Davidson College, private donations, and contributions from the participating school systems, the program is free to participants. The college provides about $200,000 a year, with additional funding from participating school districts.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by "U.S. News and World Report" magazine.