A Harry Potter Hunt

23 March 2011 · 5 comments

in Literacy Outdoors, Urban

OK. Imagine the scenario. You arrive at a class to support an outdoor learning session and it’s not happening. Do you:

a) Nip off to the staffroom for a quick cuppa?
b) Join in the planned (indoor) activity?
c) Set up an impromptu Harry Potter hunt?

Generally speaking I’m not a big fan of trails outdoors as I have too much experience of spending hours setting it up for it all to be over within a few minutes. However a couple of years ago I put together a Harry Potter trail based upon the puzzle Hermione and Harry encountered in their quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone. It a useful comprehension exercise with a bit of deduction thrown in for good measure. The rhyming puzzle was split into 16 clues, e.g.:

These were cut out, laminated and then posted around the school grounds at top speed. (Run, teacher, run!). On a map I marked the approximate location of the clues. The beautiful map below was drawn by a child in the Primary 7 class which was quick to photocopy for each group. Whilst it is not drawn to scale, the slight inaccuracies add to the challenge.

Like orienteering, the children were set the task and then had to copy the numbers onto their own map using the master. They had to consider the most efficient strategy for collecting and writing down the clues.

Some groups stuck together. Other groups chose to split up and seek the clues independently bring the results back to a record keeper.

Most groups realised that collecting the clues in order wasn’t necessary.

And the map was frequently consulted.

Once the clues had been located and collected, the groups began the task of putting them together in the correct order and working out which bottle contained which potion on the table below:

I found it interesting to observe the children undertaking this part of the task. One or two children in each group got really into the puzzle. The rest opted out. Having a task to engage the opter-outers at this point is useful. The actual hunt appealed highly to the whole class. It was an unexpected surprise to be sent outside on a balmy spring day to do this.

Because I had kept my original cards and had a map readily available, the activity took exactly 20 minutes to set up. It’s worth spending the time, when creating such activities to make them easily replicable with another class or site. In the past I’ve done this activity as a series of clues to guide children to the next place in the school grounds. This removes the need for a map but does make the activity site specific.

Finally, for those practitioners interested in geocaching and its application to trails in school grounds, then have a look at this post by Jen Deyenberg. It’s a lovely way of enhancing a hunt using gps and talking tins.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

landartista March 24, 2011 at 23:03

This is great. Thanks for including the photos. How old were the students that made the map? I have worked with many students on map making and find it to be fun and a great learning experience. What a great base map for this hunt!


Juliet Robertson March 25, 2011 at 06:07

The child was 10 years old and with additional special needs! He completed it from memory and his understanding of the layout of his new school. It was not copied from a master map! I think it’s a beautiful piece of work.


Cameron May 8, 2017 at 19:25

Love this activity Juliet! We did a standard treasure hunt at our fundraising day last year which was fine, but wanted to do something more exciting this year. I think a search on our site similar to this could be the answer. Thanks for sharing!


Juliet Robertson May 9, 2017 at 08:41

Thanks Cameron – Often picture based hunts work well with little children or finding objects – such as a real life “Where’s Wally”

I did know one environmental educator that used to do a lot with postcards and hiding these for children to find as so often the animals run a mile when they hear children in the vicinity.


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