This is part 1 of a 3 part series designed to give you ideas for running a Harry Potter/Hogwarts camp.
Next summer (2011) brings us the last Harry Potter movie. Have you thought about having a Harry Potter Camp?
At the request of some of the kids I work with, I started running Harry Potter camps, after school programs and parties three years ago. Below are some of the tools I use for the camp.
If you run your own camp please leave a comment with your thoughts and ideas. Also, feel free to email me any PDFs that I can add to this list of tools.
Since I run a day camp most of the campers are from the local area. Also, our specialty camps only get 6-20 participants each. My Harry Potter camp gets 12-15 campers. Because I have such a manageable number of campers I hand deliver their acceptance letters. Let me rephrase that – an “owl” delivers the acceptance letter on the camper’s front doorstep late at night.
Update: Now that I get 35+ kids at this camp it’s much harder to do this. I have co-workers help me out now.
I use parchment paper that I get from the local office supply store and hand sign each one. Then I place them in nice envelopes, seal it with a gold embossed sticker, stamp it “Owl Delivery” and write the child’s name on it. I then drive it to their house and place it on the doorstep late at night. The next morning the family finds the letter. After our camps we send out surveys to all of the parents. Here is one of the survey answers we got when we asked for additional comments – Love the theme camps…. my son was so interested.. and the little touches such as the ‘owl post’ the day before camp started was AWESOME.. it set the tone for a wonderful week. thank you, we wanted MORE!
It’s the little things that make a huge difference. If you have too many kids to personally deliver the letters, mail them the week before. It’s a wonderful touch.
Our camp takes place primarily in one classroom. I spend a day decorating the room. I cover the walls with Flagstone Patterned Gossamer that I get from Shindigz.
A word on Shindigz (they also own other sites, like Stumps, where they sell the same stuff) – I have had many issues with this company, including horrible communication, products being back-ordered without notice and discounts not registering during check-out. However, they have some neat products. As long as you place your order a couple of months ahead of time, yes I said a couple of months, then you should be fine.
I set up one table with various potions (different styles of jars that have colored water and other ingredients in them), candles and potion ingredients. I have a second table with Harry Potter cards, magazine, plush figures from the books, Harry Potter specialty books for reference and more candles. I have a third table with the sorting hat and some other Harry Potter stuff. Each table is covered with fabric that I found at a fabric store which fits the magical theme of Harry Potter.
Finally, all campers sit at a table or desk. I create name placards that I put on the table in front of each camper so I can learn their names. All campers are addressed as Mr. or Ms. (last name) like they do in the books. Having the set-up of a normal classroom helps with the Hogwarts theme.
The First Day
At the beginning of the week certain things need to be accomplished, such as making wands, asking some trivia questions to see where everyone is at, sorting the campers into houses, etc.
Welcome – Since we are in America I call the camp Hogwarts Americana. I let the campers know that we are separate from the Hogwarts in the U.K. and therefore have different professors and different houses.
Camp Rules – Go over the camp rules as you would normally. For example, the campers need to know where the bathroom is, that they are to behave, there is no hitting, no put-downs, etc. One of the rules at Hogwarts Americana is that the professors are addressed as Professor (last name) or sir or ma’am. All the kids call me Professor Jackson. It’s weird to hear them say it, after all, many of them know me as Moose from the other camps.
Houses – We do not have Gryffindor and Slytherin. Why? Because 90% of the campers would want to be in Gryffindor and their camp experience would be ruined if they ended up in Slytherin or Hufflepuff. We have our own houses – Embredor and Firesong. I created crests for the houses using Publisher (using a program like Adobe Illustrator would probably give you better results).
Points – For the points I have two jars, each one with a house crest glued to it. For the points I use the glass gems that you would put in a vase. For Emredor I have blue gems and for Firesong I have red gems. You can get these at your local craft supply store. Points are awarded for many things during the week, but they can also be taken away for bad behavior.
Trivia – Before I sort the campers into houses I want to find out how much they know about the world of Harry Potter. Some kids will have only seen a couple of the movies, while others will have seen them all and read all the books. I want to make sure that all of the knowledgeable, hard core Harry Potter fans aren’t in the same house, since a lot of points are given out during the week for answering trivia questions.
The Sorting – The campers are always excited about the sorting. I place a chair at the front of the room and grab the sorting hat. The sorting hat first sings his song. I will either place a small recorder in the hat and push play, without the campers seeing (the recording is of me singing, in a strange voice, the rewritten sorting hat song) or I will hide a walkie talkie and have my colleague sing the song from another room.
After the song each camper sits on the chair and wears the sorting hat. He or she then reaches into a bag and pulls out a slip of parchment that has the name of their house on it. We tell the campers that the sorting hat is guiding their hand to the correct parchment of the house they should be in. In reality I use a magic change bag. This allows me to control which house they are in. You can find a change bag at any magic shop.
Once they have been sorted campers receive a scarf with their house colors. I get these through Amazon, from a company called Blank Apparel. The scarves themselves are made by Sportsman. They are great quality, very reasonably priced and the shipping is pretty quick. The campers love them and the parents are impressed that we give the campers a nice house scarf.
The scarves must stay in the room the whole week. They can be taken home at the end of the week. By wearing the scarves at camp I’m able to see who is in which house. Some of the campers like to tie it around their waist like a sash since the weather is usually pretty warm. That’s fine with me, as long as they have it on. At our Hogwarts after school program I make the kids buttons instead of giving them scarves. This can be done at camp as well to show who is in each house if you don’t want to go with scarves.
Owls on the Loose – At some point during the day I tell the kids that I just got a post from John Rakspur, the owner of Eeylops Owl Emporium, telling me that a bunch of his owls had escaped his shop. I let the campers know that John told me if any of them catch an owl they can keep it as their own. I then let them go outside and hunt for an owl. I get a variety of plush owls from Amazon and then we hide them around the camp. For an example of the owls I get, click on the link below.
Once the campers have each found an owl they receive a paper with their type of owl on it (Barn, Great-Horned, Snowy, etc.) that has a picture and facts about their type of owl. The campers are then asked to name their owl and write it on the paper they were given.
Each morning campers receive an owl post. This can be anything from a snack item to a copy of the Daily Prophet. So their owls must remain at camp, along with their scarves until the end of the week. Each morning I place their owl post item with their owl. The campers are always excited to see what their owl has brought them.
Wand Making – I use the directions I got from Instructables.com to make the wands out of paper. The instructions are below. My staff and I create the wands ahead of time and place them in individual boxes we get from the Container Store. I also fill them with either a strand of Dragon heartstring (shiny green thread), a strand of Unicorn hair (shiny white/silver thread) or a Phoenix feather (red feather from the craft supply store). The first year I did this camp i had the kids try and make their own. It was a disaster. Since then we’ve made them the week before camp.
On the first day we do a wand choosing ceremony. the campers choose a box. They can take a look at the wand and wave it around. If they like it, they keep it. If they don’t like it they get one more pick. The wands have different looks, different cores, different lengths and different colors (varying shades of brown). Since they are made of paper the campers need to be careful with them as they dent and bend easily. We always make extra wands just in case. Campers are not allowed to take the wands home until the end of the week.