Harry Potter has been summering in Riverhead at his home away from home, Hogwarts, which for a time was relocated to Mercy-McGann High School. The school hosted a Harry Potter-themed summer camp for 35 students from private and public schools across eastern Suffolk County earlier this month.
On one recent Thursday morning, shouts echoed through the hall as campers were placed into Hogwarts’ “houses” to play quidditch and make use of the infamous Marauder’s Map. But it wasn’t all fun and games. The kids learned about teamwork and how to think critically, through potions, raising dragon eggs, making their own wands and speaking in a snake language.
“I am a member of Hufflepuff!,” said Ethan Aube, 8, of Riverhead, speaking about the house in Hogwarts that he was assigned to. “We’re loyal, honest, we play fair and work hard.”
The campers, ages 8 to 12, followed the instructions of their “house leaders,” who were made up of Mercy-McGann alumni and current drama students.
The creator and head teacher of the Hogwarts camp, Ann Corrao, a French teacher at the high school, said she came up with the idea and then the lesson-plans just started flowing.
“Day one we were doing a registration where they had to go through a “muggle” test, making broomsticks, making wands;” said Ms. Corrao. “Day two we did potions and actually tested dragons’ eggs, blew things up and created foam. Day three we did the Maurader’s Map, where they had to follow clues to find things in the library; they did a great job with that. We also played quidditch today, and tomorrow we will finish up by watching one of the movies and doing some trivia.
“All-in-all it went very well. A lot of them are asking me how to sign up for next year!”
Debbie Kneidl, a Mercy-McGann administrator, was also involved in the series of what the school calls enrichment camps, which included Hogwarts. The camps kicked off last year, typically with “focus on science and math, and problem-solving and hands-on learning, which children in the 8-to-12 age bracket typically engage well in,” she said.
The school also hosts a culinary camp, at which students learn the basics of cooking; a civil war camp that allows them to see how our American ancestors lived; and the drama and theater camp, which she said was most popular besides Hogwarts, Ms. Kneidl said.
Mercy-McGann also hosts athletic and remediation camps throughout the summer.
“It’s all about engaging kids and having them accept education as a fun thing,” said Ms. Kneidl. “That was really our goal here, to let the kids have some fun in academics”.
Everyone involved, students, their parents and teachers alike, seemed to agree that Harry Potter should definitely be spending some more summers in Riverhead in the future. Ms. Kneidl and Ms. Corrao both said the Hogwarts camp will continue next year, possibly with a longer duration, more children and even more involved activities.