Those looking to fulfill their 1800 series UCOR requirement can now take a chemistry class that invokes the world of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter to answer questions about the natural world. UCOR 1810: Potions for Muggles is an introductory chemistry course taught by Professor Andrea Verdan.
Drawing on her passion of the popular fantasy book series, Verdan created an entire lesson plan based on Harry Potter and hopes to use it to keep students excited about the subject.
“I think that’s what good teachers do,” Verdan said. “They are really passionate about what they do. If it’s something that makes me excited, then I can get my students excited about it as well.”
Verdan was inspired to create a new course after teaching a UCOR class for the first time last year.
“It was a chemistry UCOR class,” Verdan said. “Some of the content was interesting, but halfway through the quarter I don’t think the content was as engaging as it could have been.”
Hoping to give students a more exciting introduction to chemistry, Verdan looked to the world of Harry Potter for inspiration.
Verdan said her lessons will consist of comparisons between the fantasy world explanations in the Harry Potter series to real life science.
“We’re going to practice some alchemy and read some Nicholas Flamel [a famous French alchemist said to have possessed the sorcerer’s stone] and then compare that to the scientific explanation of what’s happening.”
Lab experiments will consist of real world chemistry experiments for students to perform that have strong parallels to the uses and effects of potions in Harry Potter. The course will teach not just chemistry, but also the nature of science, how scientific knowledge developed in the scientific community and what makes science different than other disciplines.
Students will be magically transported, most likely via Portkey, to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to take part in this class. In keeping with tradition, upon arrival at Hogwarts, students will gather and be sorted into their respective houses—Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.
Once sorted, students will begin training for their N.E.W.T.s (Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests) by studying various Hogwarts subjects with Verdan such as Defense Against the Dark Arts, History of Magic and of course Potions. Each lesson in the class will be based on a topic in the Harry Potter world and offer students the opportunity to learn chemistry in the frame of the fantasy epic.
“Every class is going to be one of the topics that’s taught at Hogwarts; everything’s going to be in the context of Harry Potter,” Verdan said. “I’m trying to put as much of what happens at Hogwarts into the class.”
Students will also compete in the “House Cup” which yields a prize for the winning house at the end of the quarter.
Sophomore chemistry major Johanna Rinaman said she is excited to see courses like Verdan’s added to Seattle University’s course catalog.
“I think it’s really cool because it’s more fun for people who might not necessarily like the chemistry aspect but who like Harry Potter,” Rinaman said. “This way we can get what we want out of our education.”
While students don’t need to be experts on the source material, access to and familiarity with the Harry Potter books and movies is on the list of optional materials for the class.
Senior biochemistry major Calvin Leonen said he is intrigued by the course description.
“The connection between actual science and fantasy world is really exciting,” Leonen said. “All the experiments have chemical background and theories but are framed in the context of fantasy.”
Classes like this give students the opportunity to experience science in a familiar context, and can act as a stepping stone into new fields of study.
“It gets non-science, non-chemists engaged in chemistry,” Leonen said.
Leonen said he wishes he could take the class for himself.
“One of the main influences for me to pursue chemistry was potions and Harry Potter,” he said. Leonen sees this new class as an exciting way to get people interested in the sciences.
The course will begin Winter Quarter of 2016.
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