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How does the Worldwide Harry Potter Craze fit into the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service’s Mission?
Midwest Region, July 20, 2007
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When Teresa Jaskiewicz, Environmental Education Specialist at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, was asked by the local Fergus Falls bookstore to present an educational program on the eve of the latest and final book in the Harry Potter series, she answered, “Absolutely!” 

An avid Harry Potter fan herself, Jaskiewicz had created a program seven years ago for the library and most recently two years ago for the same bookstore.  Both programs were based on the owls made famous by the Harry Potter series.

The most notable owl in the series was Harry’s snowy owl, Hedwig. Since snowy owls have been known to irrupt into the Prairie Pothole Region of west central Minnesota, the program was a natural fit with the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District’s mission.

Since the reading public had already seen the owl program a few times, Jaskiewicz decided to create a new program, tying the District’s invasive/noxious plant issue into the new late-night Harry Potter program.

She researched folklore and medicinal plant usage and even found plant potions that were used by early Europeans, then collected antique glass bottles and filled them with invasive or noxious plants.  Each bottle was labeled with the plant’s scientific and common names as well as its use.  The authentic-looking labels were aged with black tea. 

On the night of the program, hungry fans lined up at the bookstore to purchase the newest Potter book.   Jaskiewicz arrived at 11:00 p.m. dressed as “Professor Prairie Sprout,” a character she created to tend to the herb garden of Professor Snape (the potions master, to those unfamiliar with the Potter books).   She brought her apothecary of invasive species concoctions and enhanced the atmosphere of excitement with a misting fountain for “potion creation.” 

Potter fans learned about invasive plants of the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District, including mugwort (cronewort or wormwood), dandelions, catmint, buckthorn (good for wart removal!) and even thistles.  In addition to the coveted final book in the Potter series, they also received an informative sheet Jaskiewicz created just for the program, “Invasive Prairie Plant Potions.”  

In the first half hour alone, she handed out 100 copies of the flyer; 130 in less than an hour. The flyer also advertised the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center’s new educational trunk on invasive plants in our area. The trunk was designed for landowners and gardeners to check out and learn more about invasive plants and what they can do on their own property.

The madness doesn’t stop there….two days later, Jaskiewicz was approached in a local restaurant by a loyal fan who proceeded to tell her husband who Jaskiewicz was (Professor Prairie Sprout!), how she had dressed, and that she had talked about WEEDS! What a way to get the word out about invasive plants!

If you would like information on the Harry Potter program or putting together a similar trunk for your own area, and to get a list of materials included in the invasive plant trunk, please email teresa_jaskiewicz@fws.gov.

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov



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