Harry Potter – The Science behind the Magic

Throughout last week, students at Withernsea High School took part in a range of activities in support of British Science Week – an annually run national celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). 

Each year the event is run under a different theme, allowing participants to choose their own unique angle to inspire creativity. The overall theme of this year’s event was the ‘Best of British’, which led Withernsea High School to take their inspiration from the most successful series of books and films of all time – Harry Potter.

Event organiser and senior Science Technician, Mrs Viki Foster explained: “Harry Potter was chosen as a topic which would have a universally popular appeal and inspire involvement from as many of the school’s subjects as possible, making it a truly whole-school event”

Within the Science faculty, subject names were changed to titles from the book and lessons consisted of the following studies to help investigate the science behind the magic.

Potions: Students learnt to follow instructions and a scientific ‘recipe’ accurately to create the correct solution (potion)

Defence against the Dark Arts: Students practiced Aseptic Technique using Agar Plates and Microbiology techniques

Muggle Studies: Students studied Human Biology

Transfiguration: Students made slime to show chemical reactions and transformations.

In a series of Individual Skills Assignments, students had to create a recipe for ‘Floo Powder’ using prior scientific knowledge and research skills. (For those unfamiliar with Harry Potter, Floo powder is a glittery, silver powder used by witches and wizards to travel through a network that connects most wizarding households and buildings). To introduce the task to students, Headteacher Richard Williman recorded a special video message acting as the Minister of Magic.

On Tuesday, Year 7 students were treated to sessions with ‘Animal In-Tuition’ who brought in an array of animals from chickens to tarantulas and snakes. Students engaged in a number of tasks which saw them identifying and categorising various animals using their scientific knowledge, as well as working in groups to create their own creature that could come straight from a Harry Potter novel.

On Wednesday lunchtime, the science faculty opened its doors to some spectacular demonstrations and made use of copious amounts of dry ice for great effect.  The science corridor was given a makeover with theatrical coloured lighting and a smoke machine, generating a truly magical atmosphere,

Other events during the week included a staff fancy dress day, where staff came dressed up as a Harry Potter character, and the school even had its own platform 9 ¾ complete with disappearing trolley courtesy of Mrs Keith in the art department.

Mrs Dearing in the IT department created a Sorting Hat along with staff from DT. This consisted of a Raspberry Pi programmable computer inside which ‘sorted’ the students into Hogwarts houses. ‘Nagini’ the snake was also created and programmed using the Lego Mindstorms equipment and software.

English and Maths were also on board with the week with students studying various different lessons revolving around the same Harry Potter theme.

One of the highlights of the week was a recorded message from actor Matthew Lewis who plays Neville Longbottom in the film series, who wished the school a great Harry Potter week.

Science week was rounded off nicely on Friday when a large number of students and staff took a break from their normal routines to go outside and watch the near-total solar eclipse. In Withernsea we were lucky enough to see around 90% of the Sun being blocked, with an eerie twilight covering the school at the peak of its coverage.  The Science department led the safe viewing of the eclipse by providing special protective glasses for students to wear. Please click here to view the pictures

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  • Harry Potter - Science Staff
  • Marie Conway - Animal Intuition

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