"The Hobbit," a tale of homebody Bilbo Baggins' journey, is set in Tolkien's fictional realm of Middle-earth and takes place 60 years before "The Lord of the Rings." The movie released Friday is the first of the trilogy, with "The Hobbit: There and Back Again" set for release on Dec. 13, 2013, and a third film to come out in the summer of 2014.
Most of the students were just finishing elementary school when the first "Lord of the Rings" film was released 11 years ago.
Kirchoff said he started reading "The Hobbit" and the "Lord of the Rings" when he was in fourth grade, before the movies came out. He said the movies have introduced others to Tolkien's ideas, making his love for Tolkien's fantasy worlds more socially acceptable.
"The movies were fantastic enough and engaging enough to coexist in my mind with the literature I really do love," he said.
Wabiszewski said it's clear her classmates weren't just taking the class as a filler.
"I definitely expected the enthusiasm from everybody but just the knowledge that everybody brought into the class, it's cool," she said. "We really have a smart group of people in that class who have a lot to offer."