"Harry Potter" Professor, Middle School Teacher to Adapt Curriculum for Children
A Frostburg State University physics professor and a Norfolk, Va., middle school teacher have been awarded an $82,000 grant from the Honda Foundation to develop curriculum that will use popular literature to build a bridge between reading and science in youngsters.
The teacher, Charlene Haviland, who works at Northside Middle School in Norfolk, was trying to develop a curriculum that would simultaneously increase reading, writing and science scores under Virginia's Standards of Learning.
She wanted to use J.K. Rowling's immensely popular "Harry Potter" books, and searched the Internet for ideas or already-written curriculum. There she found information about FSU's Dr. George Plitnik, who has made good use of the "Harry Potter" books as a bridge to introduce his college students to a wide variety of scientific studies and received wide media attention for his efforts.
"I was trying to find a new way to get my kids to read and make the connection between reading and science," Haviland said.
Plans are to build an after-school program using lessons based not only on the Harry Potter books, but on Dr. Seuss stories and the Lemony Snicket series. Haviland is also considering using the youth fiction classic, "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle.
In Plitnik's college classes, his students choose magical events described in the Potter books and try come up with a way to duplicate the "magic" using current or theoretical scientific methods. Since Plitnik's experience is all at the college level, Haviland will be creating the lesson plans for middle-schoolers. Haviland and Plitnik are hoping the curriculum will, in particular, be effective in helping academically challenged students.
The Honda Foundation grants support new approaches to scientific education. The grant, awarded through the FSU Foundation Inc., will in part provide lab and audio visual equipment and books for Northside Middle School.
Eventually, Plitnik and Haviland hope to have a tested curriculum that can be used by middle school teachers everywhere.