While no wands were waved or incantations said, there may have been at least a spark of sorcery at play to help bring the "Pottering on the Prairie" program to Hesston's Dyck Arboretum this March.
Dyck Arboretum board member Lorna Harder, a former professor at Hesston College, noted it was a "serendipitous" meeting last fall that helped set the wheels in the motion for the new event.
Harder and current Hesston professor Vicki Andres got together with friends and fellow members of academia Andrea Krause (professor of literature at Paderborn University, Germany) and Beth Goering (communications professor at Indiana University) in September and the discussion turned to the latter pair's recent trip to London, where they viewed a special exhibit on herbology books — books that J.K. Rowling used for research while creating the Harry Potter series — at the Natural History Museum.
That discussion helped formulate the idea for talking about the herbology of the prairie at Dyck Arboretum and doing it through the lens of Harry Potter (a topic both Krause and Goering have published articles on) — and so, "Pottering on the Prairie" and the "Spiderworts School of Herbology" were born.
"One of the things that we want to continue to build is inter-generational programing that teaches people in a fun way or informs people," Harder said. "I'm an educator, so I always think 'how can we present the prairie in a way that's interesting, that's fun and helps people be more aware of some of the native plants in our midst?'"
Geared towards people of all ages, the "Pottering on the Prairie" program will start by sorting attendees into houses (of their choosing) and then Krause and Goering will lead the "Spiderworts School of Herbology" class focusing on how Rowling incorporated that study of plants into her fictional world. From there, houses will rotate through an owl program — though there will be no testing required — put on by the Great Plains Nature Center. At the same time, participants will also be taking part in a number of crafting stations where they can make brooms from prairie grasses, wands from shrubs/trees, golden snitch "seed balls" and more.
"These are actually mini-classes that are taking herbs from the prairie and looking at their practical uses and also 'magical' uses," Harder said.
Refreshments will also be served, including tea made from prairie plants.
In addition to being a gateway to education of native plants through the Harry Potter mythology, Harder pointed out an added benefit of the program is fostering an interest in reading — as the Harry Potter fandom continues to grow and expand (e.g. the recent release of the "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" films).
Part of the arboretum's mission is to "provide transformative experiences that link people to the land," as Harder put it. She is hoping "Pottering on the Prairie" can be one of those opportunities, given the common denominator that Harry Potter fandom has become.
From the fun Harder and other volunteers have had getting ready for the event (including a number of enthusiastic reactions just while Harder was delivering posters), she is expecting it to be an exciting atmosphere and encourages fans of all ages to check out the program.
"Experience the magic of the prairie," Harder said. "What can I say? It's inherent there."
The "Pottering on the Prairie" event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon March 23 at Dyck Arboretum (177 W Hickory St., Hesston). Cost is $10 for children/students and $12 for adults before March 15 (when fees will increase by $5). For information about registering or volunteering for the event, visit dyckarboretum.org or call 620-327-8127.