The Zombie Curriculum (a possible pivot)

I had *such* nice project planned out for my class this year. I was told I had a bunch of hard science people and history people, and I came up with this subject of disasters, with this wonderful local focus. We would work with ed tech while researching the coming Cascadia earthquake.

Well, I got to my first class, and here’s what happened. The breakdown of students doesn’t work with earthquakes. These are teachers that have a certification in a specific area, and instead of a bunch of earth science and history majors we had this breakdown:

  • Biology: 3
  • Chemistry: 1
  • History: 3
  • English: 4
  • Consumer Science: 1
  • Phys Ed: 1

Oh my. Biology and Chemistry aren’t really the core of earthquakes. And English students are a THIRD of the class, and the literature options for earthquakes were just not that compelling.

So after talking about this with the students, we’re thinking of taking this in a different direction, and I wanted to see what people thought.

The idea is this: The Zombie Curriculum. An attempt to teach multiple subjects through the medium of ZOMBIES.

This idea was mentioned in-class off-handedly by a student, but the more I thought about it, the more it dug its way into my skull. The truth is that zombies intersect with almost everything.

Take human biology. Float a couple questions like “Can Zombies Feel Pain” and suddenly you have a class researching the nervous system.

  • Chemistry? Well, Zombies get energy from some form of chemical process. What does that process look like? Is it possible they harness the energy from their own decay? How do we figure that out? And maybe Zombie-ism is chemical, right?
  • Statistics. What’s the growth model for the zombie population? How do different assumptions and models lead to different predictions for when we hit peak zombie.
  • Ecology. What’s the ecological impact of zombieism?
  • Literature. What do zombies mean? Why are we obsessed with them? What are the hallmarks of the zombie genre and how does it intersect with the language of other genres?
  • History. I have a bunch of students in class that want to look at things like the Spanish Flu, and how we react to infectious diseases. Do we end up the paranoid husks we see in zombie fiction?
  • Sociology. Who bears the brunt of the zombie apocalypse? (Spoiler alert: it’s the poor and the historically underprivileged)
  • Foreign Language and Culture: How is the concept of the zombie translated in other cultures?
  • Business: What are the good business plans in a zombie apocalypse? Can we write a business plan for a growth industry?
  • Psychology: How will PTSD affect the survivors of the apocalypse? And what does the world look like to a zombie?

Anyway, we’re looking at this option. Groups would research zombie issues and write up explanations that pulled in science, math, literature, and even physical education. We’d create a wiki on zombies that serves both as research into ZOmbies and a set of teaching materials of students.

Thoughts? Do you miss the earthquake idea? Do you like the zombie idea? Would you like to contribute to our zombie curriculum?



7 thoughts on “The Zombie Curriculum (a possible pivot)

  1. Earthquakes…meh. Fear the Walking Dead?….NOW you’ve peaked my interest and I might play the at home game šŸ˜‰

  2. Hey Mike, I gotta say I originally thought by Zombie curriculum u were referring to how ur own plans for the course were dead but i had to revive them in a new form! Ha

    Ok so as someone who totally does NOT get the whole Zombie fad, I…. “don’t get it” (why it’s fun or anything; they say it’s coz i never watched that show Walking Dead) but I know the kids like it so…if they like it šŸ™‚ BUT I am kinda feeling that apart from the literature and psychology ideas, the others are a stretch for teaching different subject matter. As in, they don’t really go that deep into other subjects.

    I think the problem w non-specialists suggesting how something can be taught in another subject is that we have a rudimentary understanding of other disciplines so we cna only imagine so much. So when someone talks about how to teach math, they don’t really know what a really advanced math course looks like so they suggest things that work for freshman level or whatever.

    Having said that, I just suggest your students work harder at making these meaningful – I am sure they will come up with something deep for each subject.

    P.S. U should try playing Twitter vs Zombies (when i hacked it we removed the zombies coz….i don’t like em and found the game violent…but i think some ppl wanna put the zombies back in this semester…)

  3. I think you bailed out too quickly. If you had started with the Cascadia big one and branched out slightly to disasters you could:

    Biology- ecological impact of Indian Ocean tsunami/ Fukushima/ Chernobyl / etc,

    Chemistry – not sure

    History – look at historical accounts of the great Lisbon earthquake

    English – disaster lit including films like San Andreas

    Consumer sci- how do you make a post disaster meal plan….

    • Well, we’re not bailing on disaster. I probably should restate the plan here — our history people are working on Spanish Flu, and our preparedness people are still working on preparedness.

      I suppose a better framing of this is that we’ve backed up and let disaster be the overarching theme, with zombie disaster a viable option.

    • I’ll add that the major issue with such things is to find the right level where very different interests intersect — I think “The Big One” does that best by letting what the big one is be fluid.

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