Newswise — Two Ball State University professors are as excited as school children upon a new Harry Potter release.
Sally Jo Vasicko and DeVon Yoho are professors of political science and economics, respectively. They'll run to the June 4 opening of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" not so much to discover what perils Harry will conquer next, but to learn about the links between the budding wizard and the subjects they teach.
They, in turn, pass on what they find to their colleagues. Using children's literature to connect with students is not new. But tapping into the skyrocketing popularity of the Harry Potter series certainly offers a fresh approach to motivating students to learn economics and governmental policies, Vasicko said.
"There have been more than 20 million Harry Potter books sold, and students are not just reading these books just once," Vasicko said. "Their books are dog-eared and the spines are broken," With that in mind, Vasicko added, quoting Harry Potter to start a lesson becomes a perfect hook to grab students' interest.
Vasicko and Yoho put on workshops for elementary- and middle-school teachers to help educators bring Harry and Hogwarts, wizards and witchcraft into their classrooms. The pair of professors explores links between the books and concepts such as civic engagement, scarcity, citizenship and purchasing power.
Once the links are identified, workshop participants are guided in developing related lesson plans that are interesting and that also satisfy state teaching requirements.
"Teachers have a great time creating the lesson plans," Yoho said. "They really are ingenious with what they create."
Some of the topics covered at past workshops include:"¢ Books in the restricted section of Hogwart's library serve as examples of censorship and first amendment rights."¢ Harry demonstrates opportunity cost when he shows that he is a good quiddage beater but is chosen to become a seeker."¢ Rules and regulations at Hogwarts illustrate what it means to be a part of a community and the meaning of citizenship."¢ The goblin-managed vaults where Harry's wealth is stored serve as an example of bank security."¢ Hogwarts' house elves shackled as indentured servants provide segues into slavery and affirmative action."¢ Harry using a bagful of gold coins to buy a full candy cart reflects the concept of purchasing power.
"The Harry Potter series has rekindled children's joy of sitting down with a good book," Vasicko said. "And it's fun for teachers to study the books to connect with students and better teach economics and political science."