I’ve led all sorts of wonderful activities through the creative writing program I teach to kids. I’ve taught workshops on crafting ransom notes, building enchanted boxes, or designing fantasy characters. I’ve helped organize a full-scale treasure hunt and a fairy tale tournament. But, perhaps, none of these was as entertaining as the class I led this past weekend on magic potions.
I’ve always had my students write spells and recipes for their fantasy stories, but last week one of my pupils asked, “Why can’t we start by just making real potions?”
I thought about this as I drove home that night. Indeed, why couldn’t we make real potions? After all, I’m always stressing the need to do research in writing and if we can experience what it would be like to go a treasure hunt, why couldn’t we try to experience the process of making our own potions?
So I began scurrying about town, looking for the ingredients for our enchanted concoctions. Baking soda became mummy dust, vinegar became burning acid, blue food dye became pixie juice, glitter became faerie dust, and so on and so on. I repackaged most of the ingredients into glass bottles or other strange containers and labelled them accordingly (after all, one should never confuse frog slime with dragon pee).
Then, during my next class, I revealed to my students my collection of magical ingredients, one by one.
Now, every ten-year-old kid knows enough to say that red food dye isn’t actually blood—but on this occasion they didn’t care about challenging the reality I was trying to create for them. This activity was too much fun!
Soon the class was full of calls for “Bring me more blood!” Or: “I need more newt eyes over here!” And still: “Too much Elf bone! Ahhhh!” Yes, before I knew it, liquids were hissing and fizzing, bubbling and mumbling, turning strange colours!
A great time was had by all (including me) and this activity tied in well with my instruction on writing with the five senses. By listening, smelling, and looking at their potions, the students were able to inject these details into their stories. (Thankfully, no one tasted any of the potions—though my students definitely wanted me to act the guinea pig!)
What’s up next? Hmmm…maybe we’ll build our own wands or broomsticks.