There’s Zombies In The Classroom! Using The Undead In Education…

8 Apr

Zombies are everywhere these days and it seems classrooms are no different. More and more teachers are turning to the undead to try to make their subjects more engaging. After all, isn’t any lesson enhanced with a sprinkling of flesh-munchers? Here’s a few of my favourite examples.

1. Teaching Geography With Zombies: Let’s face it, geography can get a little bit boring from time to time so why not liven it up with some walking dead? This is what Zombie-Based Learning aims to do. It presents students with a zombie apocalypse scenario in a graphic novel called Dead Reckon. This then forms the basis for lessons and projects than introduce students to geographic concepts such as what different types of maps are used for. You can find out more at http://blog.zombiebased.com/.

2. Zombie Science: Unlike vampires, zombies can have a good scientific basis and this makes it easy to weave the undead into areas of science as different as disease transmission, neurobiology and pandemic preparedness. This can help kids develop critical thinking and learn how to apply theoretical knowledge to real life scenarios. You can learn more about this here.

3. Zombies And International Politics: We live in a global society and it’s important the people learn how the world is connected. This means that everyone needs to understand how international politics can affect things like climate change, terrorism and financial contagion, and what better to way to do this than using zombies? This is the approach that Professor Dan Drezner of Tuff’s University is using. For more information on this example, click here.

4. Sociology And The Zombie Apocalypse: This is the name of a class taught by Professor Jared Cootz of Lone State College just outside of Houston, Texas. It focuses on the cultural impacts of zombies. Since the course involves reading World War Z and watching Romero movies you can bet the students don’t have trouble doing their homework! Click here to find out more.

5. Human Behavioural Responses To Catastrophes: Michigan State University also offers a course based around zombies, but this time they’re used to teach students about human behaviour, and specifically how humans react to catastrophic events. As you can imagine, zombie apocalypse scenarios provide the perfect backdrop for learning about such things. You can find out more about this here.

6. Learning Grammar With Zombies: As any author knows, using an active voice is the key to creating a gripping tale but many people have trouble telling the difference between an active and a passive voice in their writing. However, there’s a sneaky (and fun!) zombie-based way of working this out: if you can insert the phrase ‘by zombies’ after the verb in a sentence and it still makes sense (at least from a grammatical point of view!) then it’s written in the passive voice. Not seeing how this works? Here’s an example: ‘Detective Sharp was followed [by zombies] back to the police station.’ Now that’s a grammar rule anyone can remember! You can find more examples here.

7. Mathematical Zombies:* Maths and zombies are natural bed-fellows, after all it’s often their sheer weight of numbers that makes them so dangerous. Zombies can be used in almost any mathematical problem to make them more interesting. For example, you can calculate how long it will take for zombies to get from your local graveyard to your house at a given shambling speed (click here for more information); you can calculate how long it will take zombies to take over the world for a given transmission rate and how you can stop it (click here to find out more); and you can calculate how long it will take you to mow down an approaching zombie horde with your machine gun given its firing rate, the number of bullets its magazine holds and how long it takes to reload (you can find out more about this here).

*As a spin-off to this posting, I’ve now created a new blog called Maths With Zombies (http://MathsWithZombies.wordpress.com) where I’m going to explore my twin addictions of zombies and recreational mathematics in more detail. I’m aiming to post a new maths problem each week based in and around a zombie apocalypse. If you’re interested, check it out.


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

6 Responses to “There’s Zombies In The Classroom! Using The Undead In Education…”

  1. Jack Flacco 08/04/2013 at 16:35 #

    Human Behavioural Responses To Catastrophes: I love this. I think when it comes to human behavior, much of what is written in textbooks ought to be thrown out. I believe, and it’s my opinion, people don’t reveal their true selves until they’re put through a catastrophe of sorts. Look what happens every year in Canada on Black Friday or Boxing Day. Much of what goes on in the stores is pure greed. I stay away from those places during that time of year. I’ve seen folks fight over boxes of soy milk. And this is during time of peace! Can you imagine what it would be like during a real catastrophe?

    Mathematical Zombies: This is another great area. I agree with you, math and zombie go well together. What child wouldn’t want to work through fractions when the scenario involves zombies? “What is the ratio of zombies to humans when 300 zombies are knocking on the building door and there are 5 humans in the bunker?” I would also love to work through those delightful questions as well!

    • cmdrysdale 08/04/2013 at 17:22 #

      Hi Jack,

      You’re right, you only know how you’ll deal with a catastrophe when you find yourself in one, and that is the time you find out what you’re really like inside. I’ve been through a couple of relatively minor ones (one rather large hurricane called Floyd when I was in the Bahamas and one medical one) and I learned more about myself in a few minutes of these than in the rest of my life combined.

      I think one of the most frightening things around human behaviour is how quickly we give in to mob mentality, whether it’s stampeding over fallen people to save 50% of a new flat screen TV or committing acts of genocide in a remote village. We all like to think we’re civilised and in control, but it’s just a thin veneer that can disappear in a flash, revealing something underneath that is often very unpleasant.

      The maths and zombies thing is something that really appeals to me as well. All the maths questions I was given at school were just sooooo boring and left you wondering why anyone even cared how long it would take before train A passed train B. And this comes from someone who actively likes maths (I’m a geek that way!) Now if there’d been zombies in it, then I would have seen the point and it would have made me much keener to work out the answer. It’s a great way to encourage kids (especially those who can’t really see the point of it) to do maths.

      All the best,

      Colin

  2. lararthompson 08/04/2013 at 18:20 #

    Great post! I’ll be checking out those links for sure. I found my way over here from Jack’s blog and your great comments over there. Cheers!

    • cmdrysdale 08/04/2013 at 18:39 #

      Hi Lara,

      Glad you like my posts (and indeed my comments on Jack’s blog!) so thanks for folllowing me over from there. I’m aiming to provide something a little different on the zombie front – which is why you’ll never find me discussing the five best guns to kill zombies with (I might regret saying that one day when I run out of other ideas). I don’t know if I’ll succeed but it’s sure fun trying!

      All the best,

      Colin

      PS I’m just on my way over to your blog to leave a comment there (as a fellow science postdoc, there’s something I’m curious about in terms of writing).

  3. Trent DeJong 02/06/2013 at 08:31 #

    Zombies really are far more than just a movie monster. I teach Zombies! Zombies are great to use in an educational context because of their cultural popularity, especially among the school age demographic. As a teacher in the humanities, I have found them to be fascinating philosophically and think that zombies have a lot to teach us about ourselves. I have written about the meaning of zombies at my website (the first post is at http://trentdejong.com/?p=592). This series is a little academic and quite detailed. If you’d like a lighter version I summarized it all in a post called “10 Things Zombies Tell Us About Ourselves.” You can find that one here: http://www.squidoo.com/the-meaning-of-zombies2. I hope these resources can help teachers to engage their students.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Maths With Zombies | Colin M. Drysdale - 18/05/2013

    […] while a go, I posted an article about using zombies in education to help teach kids and students subjects that might otherwise seem a little boring. Initially, I […]

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