Program puts minds in motion

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Fourth-grader Brandon McCusker gets a hand by presenter Deb Flaherty, a history teacher at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls, as he mixes elixirs in the "Potions Class with Professor Bubbly Brew" workshop during the Minds in Motion program at Long River Middle School in Prospect on Saturday afternoon. –RA ARCHIVE

PROSPECT — Waving a wand, sporting a black robe and affecting a British accent, Deb Flaherty disguised as Professor Bubbly Brew brought the fictional world of Harry Potter to Long River Middle School on Saturday.

Fourteen fourth- and fifth-graders stood at attention at two long tables set up with four empty vials and containers filled with ingredients called such names as “Solidified Spit of Troll” and “Pulverized Dragon’s Tooth.”

With a small scoop here, and a medium scoop there, the class created fizzing and lava lamp-like potions — similar to Harry Potter at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in J. K. Rowling’s books.

This was one of many workshops offered to students in kindergarten through eighth-grade at Minds in Motion at the school in Region 16. The Connecticut Association for the Gifted and the Long River Middle School PTO sponsored the event.

About 145 children and 80 parents attended, said Trish Spofford, event coordinator. The event, which offered workshops for children and adults, plus a keynote speaker for parents, raised money for the PTO and the association, she said.

Spofford said this was the first time for the district to do this, and organizers hope to do it next year, drawing more people. It’s a unique fundraiser that gives an opportunity for children to explore other interests that they may want to pursue later, she said.

Brooke Burling, the association’s executive director, said the association put on six events this year including Long River. Established in 1969, the association partners with parent groups and other organizations to offer the program, he said.

Parent Suki Amir, of Orange, brought her daughter, Ananya, 10, a fifth-grader, to Professor Bubbly Brew’s potions class. Amir said her daughter has read all the Harry Potter books, and she thought it would be a good enriching program.

Student artists Joseph Norton and Max Cheezic glue down shapes as they create their own artwork after learning about Van Gogh's "Starry Night" during Minds in Motion at Long River Middle School on Saturday afternoon in Prospect. –RA ARCHIVE

Flaherty, who is a history teacher at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls, with her assistant, Ellen Margiotta, who is a teacher in Framingham, Mass., encouraged students to follow directions so that their elixirs would bubble.

Ananya concocted potions with her friend, Mounishi Anumolu, 10 and a fifth-grader of Orange. Both are big fans of Harry Potter, and said the class is like they’re in the books.

“Our wish has come true,” Mounishi said.

In another workshop, Pat Vlamis, a professional photographer of Prospect, shared the works of Vincent Van Gogh with kindergartners and first-graders. The children then painted their own version of a “Starry Night.”

“They were very receptive and creative,” Vlamis said.