Harry Potter: still enchanting kids

Caroline Drapeau, a Rosendale student, questions Dumbledore (otherwise known as Principal Joseph Dicaprio) during the school's Hogwarts Night. Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.INDIANA NASH/GAZETTE REPORTER Caroline Drapeau, a Rosendale student, questions Dumbledore (otherwise known as Principal Joseph Dicaprio) during the school's Hogwarts Night. Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.

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By Indiana Nash

Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA- On the evening of October 21, two Niskayuna elementary schools were transformed in the image of perhaps the most famous wizarding school: Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Hillside Elementary students and Rosendale Elementary students donned wizard robes, witches hats and wands to head into their transformed schools, where very few muggles were in sight.

For Rosendale, the evening was seeped in tradition.

The school has been holding what they’ve deemed Hogwart’s Night since 2001.

“It’s just incredible. The books came out such a long time ago, but this night still brings everyone out,” said Principal Joseph DiCaprio.

Rosendale’s halls were decorated in everything Harry Potter, from the hallways to the classroom windows. A giant Aragog statue – the spider who debuts in the second book in the series – lay in wait to be posed next to outside of the reptile show that students and parents were milling around (thankfully, unlike The Sorcerer’s Stone, no snakes escaped).

Jo Ann Sabourin, the physical education teacher at Rosendale, drew in a large crowd for quidditch. In the Niskayuna version, the game was a cross between Hogwarts style quidditch and American style lacrosse.

“We’ve made little changes over the years,” said Sabourin. She designed the game for the very first Hogwart’s Night and has presented her game design at state and local physical education conferences.

This year, there were bell sounds when students scored and fifth graders tallied up the scores, which incorporated math skills into the event.

“Even though quidditch may seem outdated, the kids’ excitement still stands,” Sabourin said.

One former Rosendale student, Rebecca Schechter, has been going to Hogwarts Night for the past eight years.

“It’s just really fun and it’s really fun to watch the different stations and quidditch,” said Schechter.

At Hillside, Harry Potter Night is a bit of a new tradition.

One volunteer and parent who helped to organize the first Harry Potter Night four years ago, Stacy Rijssenbeek, said that it all started when a few students and parents became passionate about the book series.

“We just started coming up with ideas on putting something like this together and it just gets bigger every year,” Rijssenbeek said.

The event takes weeks of preparation and a few late nights of transforming the school. But Rijssenbeek and other volunteers say that they think the tradition will carry on well past their time at Hillside.   

Students, who were sorted into different ‘Houses’ earlier in October, went to ‘transfiguration class’ where they had their faces painted or got temporary tattoos or got a streak of their ‘House’ colors in their hair.   

In Diagon Alley (otherwise known as the art room) the students made ‘Harry Potter’ themed crafts. In the dungeons, students brewed concoctions with potions masters Matthews, Esposito, King, Hehir, Suda, Mohajeri and Coonrad — all a great deal kinder than the legendary Professor Snape.

The evening also had students competing in quidditch tournaments. Professor (or ‘Coach’) Darryl Bray, Hillside’s physical education teacher, began teaching students how to play weeks before Harry Potter Night and it made students all the more competitive.

The cheers of each team (divided up by grade level) echoed throughout the gym and could even be heard outside.  

For the forty-plus parents and families who got into the swing of everything Harry Potter and volunteered, Rijssenbeek said she is thankful and hopes that the magic of the evening will carry on into ensuing years.