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Millikin student Alyssa Jimenez and fourth grader Joleena Stewart make wands during Harry Potter-themed activities hosted by Millikin School of Education professor Ngozi Onuora and her students for Dennis School fourth graders at Millikin University Wednesday. Online gallery at

DECATUR — Seamus Jordan came prepared for Harry Potter Day at Millikin University. He wore his Hogwarts T-shirt and he brought his wand, but he didn't obtain that wand at Ollivander's, where Harry Potter bought his.

“I just got it off Amazon,” said the Dennis School fourth-grader, who is an avid fan of the boy wizard and has read all the books and seen all the films. His favorite book is the final one, “The Deathly Hallows.” His name is also the same as a minor character's in the series.

The event, a chance to have fun and learn, was planned for May 2 because that's the date on which Harry Potter finally defeated Lord Voldemort (or “He Who Must Not Be Named”) in the final book, said Ngozi Onuora, the Millikin professor who invited Dennis teachers Jennifer Neilson-Parks and Sue Phillips to bring their students. 

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Millikin students Ian Plecker, far left, Megan Garrison, middle right, Alyse Doneske, far right, help run a Harry Potter trivia game as Dennis School chaperone Jan Andrews celebrates getting a right answer with her team during Harry Potter-themed activities hosted by Millikin School of Education professor Ngozi Onuora and her students for Dennis School fourth graders at Millikin University Wednesday. Online gallery at

Dennis teacher Sue Phillips said Onuora proposed the event about a month ago, giving the fourth grade time to read “The Sorcerer's Stone” and view the first film. Some of her students are huge Potter fans anyway, while others hadn't read the books at all until now.

Onuora was a teacher at Enterprise School in 1998 when the first Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,” came out and started a sensation. Kids who were reluctant readers at best suddenly began to devour the Potter books and talked about them so much that Onuora decided she had to find out what was so appealing. She read the first book and was also hooked, including the midnight release parties for the later books.

“I wasn't really into wizards and witches and that kind of fantasy,” she said. “Then I worked with Donna Rutledge, who was the librarian at Enterprise. We were going to do Harry Potter in the classroom, but at the time it was new, and some parents were like, 'This is witchcraft,' so we had to make it an after-school volunteer program.

"We went all out. I sent them notes in green ink that were on their desk, the students who were part of the program.”

She had a book called “Gross Recipes,” and parents whipped up things that looked horrifying but were actually just sweet treats. She invented a way to play Quidditch, Harry's favorite sport, that didn't involved actually flying around on broomsticks.

The Dennis kids on Wednesday first went through the Sorting ceremony, where they were assigned to their Houses. Because Onuora doesn't have a Sorting Hat, she used a black baseball cap. After that, the kids took part in a quiz to see how much they know about Harry Potter from the first book.

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From left, fourth grader Brooklyn Fisher, education professor Ngozi Onuora, fourth grade teacher Sue Phillips, fourth grader Calvin Andrews and fourth grade teacher Jennifer Parks play a sorting hat game where the students and teachers are assigned to teams while participating in Harry Potter-themed activities at Millikin University Wednesday. Professor Ngozi Onuora and her students planned and facilitated activities that meet several learning standards for Dennis School fourth grade classes that participated in the event. Online gallery at

Addison Eades loved the first book, but hasn't yet read any of the others, and her first introduction to horcruxes was the scavenger hunt at the event. A horcrux is an object that contains a piece of a person's soul, an effort to attain immortality.

“A few years ago, I thought, 'I want to teach about the themes of Harry Potter that are so relevant to real world issues,'” Onuora said. “I created a course called 'Mudbloods, Muggles and Misfits.'”

Mudbloods is a pejorative term for wizards whose parents are Muggles, which is the term for people who lack magical skills. It's a travel course, and students visit sites in London, which is the home of author J.K. Rowling, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida. Students are required to produce a research project which ties a real-world issue to a theme in the Potter books.

Teresa Brase wrote her paper about AIDS and compared it to Professor Lupin's being a werewolf.

“He wasn't allowed to teach anymore after they found out he was a werewolf,” she said. “There's a stigma attached to being a werewolf (in Harry's world) like there is to having AIDS.”

Sara Canny wrote hers on child neglect and abuse, tying it to Harry Potter through the way his aunt and uncle, who raised him, treated him. His “bedroom” was a cupboard under the stairs and he was neglected and ignored.

The Potter saga is a good way to get kids interested in reading, and contains a lot of themes like perseverance and the importance of friendship that could inspire kids, Canny said.

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter


Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

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