The students of Northland Preparatory Academy, number 3300 Sparrow Avenue, are proud to say that they are perfectly abnormal after hosting an event unlike any other in the school’s 23-year history.
To introduce the school’s outgoing eighth-graders to high school, the campus was transfigured into a scene seemingly pulled out of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world, complete with a Quidditch match and Yule Ball, among other Harry Potter icons.
“There has never been any project this school has done that has been this level of kid-teacher engagement for other kids,” Principal Toni Keberlein said.
Saturday night, eighth grade and high school students gathered at the “NPA Spartan School of Magic” sporting wands, broomsticks and house-colored scarves. Some wore elaborate costumes of familiar characters like Potter himself and even the bespectacled Madame Trelawney, divination professor in the internationally beloved book and film series.
For more than six months, NPA students and staff gathered outside of class to brew ideas, gather supplies and conjure a magical school all their own, using ingenuity and repurposed materials.
“We were looking for an opportunity to get the eighth-graders involved with high school, to invite them to be part of our magical world,” said English teacher Carol Willis, who first proposed the theme. “NPA was founded right about the time Lord Voldemort was defeated in the wizarding world, so we imagined, what if some western wizards decided to start their own school, how would that fit together with the story?”
The event was not just a single committee celebration, though, but a conglomeration of efforts from throughout the school.
Student wordsmiths created NPA-specific wizard lore, while artists created customized wands, wax-sealed invitations and scarves for each of the eighth-graders.
Maya Guthrie, 18, helped with the magical knickknacks that were scattered throughout the high school building Saturday. She said she spent her spring break creating the antique-looking portraits that featured current school officials.
“I think part of what makes the décor of Hogwarts so immersive is the clutter, so we’ve been working on the clutter aspects for weeks,” she said prior to the celebration.
Attendees could test their wizardry in one of three escape rooms, where computer science and engineering students programmed clocks to move with the wave of a wand, a mandrake to squeal upon being pulled from its planter and secret compartments to spring open with the correct performance of “Hedwig’s Theme” on a glockenspiel. The building also featured wizarding shops like Borgin & Burkes and “selfie spots” with themed backdrops, where digital photography students used their magic to transform green fabric into invisibility cloaks.
Athletes and performers, too, found their place in the wizarding world.
After trainings from Northern Arizona University’s Quidditch team, the Narwhals, NPA junior and senior athletes battled for the student-created house cup, displaying a surprising prowess on the gymnasium-turned-Quidditch-pitch. Spectators found themselves equally involved as they recoiled to avoid the destructive touch of the Bludgers – in this case, dodgeballs.
Performers rounded out the event, with choir singing “Double Trouble” prior to the game and the senior dance team reinterpreting the entrance of the visiting schools from the Goblet of Fire.
“This is a labor of love for them. Everyone who was interested could find a way to be part of it,” Willis said.
After the match, the incoming high schoolers celebrated as they danced among Christmas décor in their own Yule Ball.
“I think what makes Harry Potter so great is how immersive it is and the world itself,” said Emma Blair, 17, who donned a Quidditch jersey for the evening. “Everyone knows it at some basic level, so that helps unite us and it’s cool because we are our own nerdy school.”