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New school trend: Zombie-based learning

  • Washington educator teaches kids geography in a unique way
  • Zombies in classrooms? It works, apparently
New school trend: Zombie-based learning

A day on the job for Bellevue-based middle school teacher David Hunter starts just like any other teacher's day: He gets to class, settles his students down and takes attendance before he gets down to business -- talking about zombies and geography.

Hunter's unique approach takes subjects that some kids struggle to pay attention to and turn them into something that they look forward to. His idea was to create a full geography curriculum (using National Geography Standards) taught in the context of a zombie apocalypse. Using textbooks, teaching plans and role playing as tools, he draws his students into a dynamic scenario that allows them to have fun while learning.

The geography teacher funded his original idea for the project, called Zombie-Based Learning, on Kickstarter in June of 2012. It got more than twice the funding he hoped for, which made him realize that he just might be on to something. His second Kickstarter aims to raise funding for a series of graphic novels called "Dead Reckon" that will act as supplementary materials to the curriculum, once again intertwining something kids enjoy with learning.

"That age group (sixth- and seventh-graders) understands a zombie apocalypse better than they understand real-world applications of geography," Hunter told HLN. "It's really cool to see kids making the connection, letting them do the learning and thinking on their own."

The curriculum was recently featured as a part of the TedEd educational series, where Hunter explains how geographical skills could actually be crucial in the event of a real zombie apocalypse. It begs the question: Why is this alternative approach to learning rare, and will we see more of it in the future as projects like Zombie-Based Learning see success in classrooms?

"It is amazing that we aren't already there," Hunter said. "The textbooks available today are not made with the teacher or student in mind. I believe that students can learn important educational concepts through the lens of their interests."

Will alternative learning continue to keep students from snoring their way through class? They just might. In the meantime, students in Hunter's classroom will keep using their brains, if only to keep zombies from gobbling them up.

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