Adventure, Harry Potter Style

The following is a guest post by Sherry Crawley. Crawley is the director of marketing and communications for The Nature Conservancy in Georgia, as well as a Harry Potter fanatic. She formerly taught high school language arts and worked as the director of education at Zoo Atlanta.

“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”— Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

From flying on a hippogriff to searching for horcruxes in dark caves, Harry Potter and his friends have taken faithful fans like me on a magical and thrilling adventure.

When is the last time you went on an adventure? That’s just not a word we grown-up Muggles throw around a lot.

The Harry Potter books and movies hold many lessons – of friendship and love, of loss and hope. But for me, it is the openness to the unknown, the unexpected turn of events that has kept me coming back for more. Harry, Ron, Hermione and their friends aren’t afraid to take risks – or they at least accept that doing new, sometimes scary and crazy things is the stuff life is made of.

My professional life was just beginning when the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released. I began my career teaching high school language arts. I remember the frenzy that ensued as the story became popular. I saw student after student carrying dog-eared books, and my younger sister waited in line at midnight to be among the first to watch the movie.

With the release of the last movie, the meaning of the stories is coming full circle for me. Although many of the places and creatures in Harry’s world are imaginary, the presence of nature is woven into the very fiber of the stories and the characters themselves. Now the mother of a toddler, statistics like the fact that in a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own (Children & Nature Network, 2008) really make me stop and think. Alas, my son is not a wizard, so it is my responsibility to ensure nature is more to him than roadside trees viewed from a car.

You might not be able to hike through a Forbidden Forest or hang out with dragons. Not to worry: adventure can be as simple as exploring your backyard or local park. Especially if you have children, remember that your idea of a thrilling experience is very different; my son gets absurdly excited over sticks, and seeing a squirrel scamper up a tree induces squeals of joy.

Here are some ideas to help you get outside and “pursue that flighty temptress.”

  • Learn something new: Harry and his friends used their knowledge of plants and animals to their advantage countless times. While knowing gillyweed will allow you to breathe underwater might not be important in our world, being able to identify poison ivy is a helpful skill. And, you’ll get more from your time outdoors if you can spot common trees and animal tracks. Check out Leafsnap, a website and app for iPhones dedicated to tree identification.
  • Explore a familiar place with new eyes: Go for a walk or explore a nearby park. Pay attention. What plants to do you see? Can you find evidence of animals that live there? Go outside at different times of day. Try out our Nature’s Treasure Hunt if you have kids along.
  • Try something new like geocaching or birdwatching: Maybe you’ll find a rare feathered friend!
  • Confront your fears: If you’re afraid of bugs, take a magnifying glass and see what you can find. If snakes terrify you, learn how to identify them and get up close and personal at a local nature center.
  • And since I’m an old English teacher, I can’t help it: keep a journal of your adventures: Encourage your kids to draw pictures or write down what they remember from your rambles. You never know – they might be the next J.K. Rowling! Connect with The Nature Conservancy on Facebook – share your experiences to inspire others!

If you step back and think about it, the possibility for adventure is all around us. I probably won’t ever meet a unicorn or confront a Whomping Willow tree, but I feel like I have lived these thrilling experiences through these wonderful stories. Don’t be afraid! Or accept your fear as a motivation to conquer it. And who knows what might be lurking in the woods? The thought of it makes me shiver with excitement – and I love it!

(Image: A Harry Potter costume. Image credit: Sappymoosetree/Flickr via a Creative Commons license.)

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  1. Great blog! That quote by Dumbledore is one of my favorite in the whole series!

  2. It would be wonderful if all children had safe places to play outside and in the forest! As a child we built forts and huts. We used flower we found to make fairies and made them moss covered homes. Being able to play outside is one of the best to help children learn to be creative and use the skills they have in themselves to create whatever world they wish. Fancy toys are the downfall of creativity!

  3. I notice that there are no televisions at Hogwarts. You’d think that magic would mean unlimited DVDs, unlimited internet, and unlimited video games. But instead they sit around the fire and play chess.

  4. I’m not sure which came first – my children’s respect and love of nature, or their love of the adventure found in fantasy novels such as the Harry Potter series. We just spent th WHOLE day at the drive-in, in costume, drinking butter beer, awaiting the dble. feature of parts 1 & 2, lying in the grass, playing games and eating on blankets.

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