Zombie Based Learning assignment under fire in Parkers Prairie

Teachers face a constant struggle to make their lessons relatable to their students. An engaged student is an educated student. It’s a form of the “by any means necessary” method of education.

That’s why we have the Zombie Based Learning curriculum.

Creative teaching? What is this fresh nonsense?

So maybe there are pitfalls to the method, a teacher in Parkers Prairie, Minn., is discovering.

The Alexandria Echo Press reports a ninth-grade teacher gave her students an assignment that included listing weapons around the house to kill a zombie, create a zombie survival kit, and list three people to sacrifice to the zombies.

The teacher specifically required her students to list the sacrificial people. No martyrs, she said.

Michelle Diedrich’s daughter started on the assignment before her mother put an end to it.

“I thought she had actually misinterpreted,” Diedrich tells the Echo Press. “I had her print it off. I read it and told her she’s not going to do it. We do not sacrifice others to save ourselves.”

By the time Diedrich complained, the principal had already met with the teacher and it was decided not to grade the assignment.

“I sent another email, begging them not to do it,” Diedrich said. “I kept thinking about that child that’s going to hear his name. They (students) were talking about it in class and talking about who they were going to pick. That one child is going to break. My daughter said there was one who got put on a lot of the lists.”

Some students apparently used their eye for detail.

“If you correctly read the instructions he (the teacher) has copied onto Google Classroom it says ‘your people.’ Nowhere on the assignment does it say that you have to choose friends or family to be on that list,” one student pointed out on Facebook.

The person (in the video above) who created Zombie Based Learning says his curriculum does not involve killing anyone, dying, or writing about weapons.

  • Mike

    I thought geography was learning about mountains, rivers, and regions. “Educational” gimmicks are still gimmicks; they suggest a lack of knowledge and/or creativity on the part of the teacher, not a surfeit of them. That being said, if the aim of this particular exercise was in fact geography, I’m impressed that any ninth-grade teacher is engaging students on that subject. It’s unfortunately one of those disciplines that has fallen out of favor among educational institutions in recent decades.

      • AL287

        Currently streaming on Netflix.

    • BReynolds33

      I’m going to strongly disagree with the first part or your comment. The word “gimmick” is highly subjective. One could argue a times table is a gimmick. Teach kids the plants using “My Very Excellent Mother…” could be seen as a gimmick. I see no reason why giving the kids a reason to pay attention means the teacher doesn’t understand the material.

      • BJ

        Yep. framing the lesson around something else is common. It invites creative students.

      • Mike

        I took a geography course as a college student, which I grant is a bit different from teaching it to ninth-graders. Nonetheless, the professor added a lot of color to the lectures by showing us his own photos that he had taken in certain locations. Many or most of these were whimsical – crazy man-made things in Florida, Texas, etc.

        You can be creative in many different ways without straying too far from the material, or making a commercial for “The Walking Dead.”

        By the way, the Geography Department no longer exists at my undergrad institution, and my understanding is that this is something of a trend.

      • jon

        My mother was never excellent… she was always very educated. (not educated enough to stop her from serving us nine pizza’s… but I gather todays gets don’t get nine pizza’s…I think they might get nunchucks? crazy times to live in…)

      • RBHolb

        Many years ago, I took the employment exam for the CIA (the SAT, or Spook Aptitude Test). As I recall, the longest and hardest parts of the test were two sections on geography. The first had you read an excerpt from a news story, and you had to guess which country the story was about. The second part was similar, except instead of being given the names of countries, you were given a map of the world with no borders. You had to pick which numbered square the relevant country was in (“I think the story is about Bulgaria. Is that in square 4 or 5?”).

  • jon

    In 5th grade my teacher created a map, fictional countries.

    He assigned us to these fictional countries… as the governments of them, our job was to self organize, and provide for the country’s needs.

    Country G was assigned one person to rule over it… it had farmland enough to feed its population, and excess to trade, access to a seaport for trade, excess of mineral mines… basically the cadillac of countries.

    I was part of country A, we had 15 people running the country, we had some excess of minerals, but not enough farms to feed our country… we needed to trade for food every “round”… we were landlocked, and weren’t even on a particular good route for negotiating passage for other countries looking to trade…

    To many leaders and to many people trying to get that one farm’s worth of food, we’d often end up with extra food, and absolutely no other resources… (the goal was to build roads, it required getting paying for them via a sea port (every one over seas was the teacher, and he set the rates for everything over seas) and we never had resources for roads because we spent them all getting food, often more food than we need.)

    Eventually on the brink of civil war, we split our country into A1 and A2… the teacher was cool with it (though I don’t think he ever had it happen in the years he ran the exercise) I don’t know what the goal of the exercise was exactly…
    It was a geography thing… poor countries remaining poor, and rich countries remaining rich, countries governed by committee being ineffective, the luck of the draw in getting to be the one person who is ruling over country G with an excess of resources…. plenty to take out of it… probably all the same things you could learn from star craft (or any other resource management strategy game) but of course those things didn’t exist yet.

    • Joseph

      Did you learn what to when “nuclear launch detected” alarms sound, or when “carrier has arrived” and the importance of pylons? 😉

      (Sorry, I’m a Geographer and SC2 fan ;D )

      • Scramble around looking for that STUPID RED DOT so I can run my drones

        I’m loving Remastered right now. <3 real lurkers

  • AL287

    Creative teaching? Maybe.

    IMHO, In this particular case just another “tool” students can use to bully or harass students they don’t like or who fall outside the definition of “normal.”.

    A better way would be to bring genealogy into it. Research the countries your ancestors came from since every American since the founding of the country is an immigrant or the issue of immigrant parents. Delve into the cultural traditions and social norms in that country.

    For U.S. Geography look at state and regional traditions.

    It’s a good way for students to recognize and understand differences.

  • Mike Worcester

    What feels like a million years ago — reality: thirty-five year ago — a wonderful teacher named Don Graham taught us that understanding geography was more than just lines on a map. It’s fine, he taught us, that you can name all fifty state capitols (I could). But being able to point out a nation like Iran on a map was not enough. What were their major languages? What was the topography of the country? Major waterways? Religious beliefs? Typical architecture? All those facets that made it more than just a location on a globe.

    In this instance, it was an attempt to use a pop culture reference to engage students. Nothing wrong with that in the abstract. Good teachers do that all the time. Maybe the execution and specifics were not quite for this particular group of students. That happens also. Points for trying. Too bad it did not work. Hope you try to connect again.

  • Barton

    I remember doing a similar exercise in grade school. We were all assigned a character type (farmer, hunter, builder, woodworker, solider, etc), and we were all shipwrecked. There were limited resources and we had to apply logic and determine how food/water would be shared. Each round, something different happened: someone broke a leg, someone got the flu/dysentery, etc.

    It was a fascinating exercise. I really enjoyed it – and still remember it today.

    Also, really, the Zombie thing isn’t that much different from the Oregon Trail game that came out when I was in grade school.

    • Al

      Right? Eating brains, everyone dying of dysentery… it’s all the same.

    • Mike Worcester

      And who did not love playing Oregon Trail on an Apple II with a green screen monitor. 🙂

      • Heh, I first played using a dumb terminal and dot matrix printer all hooked up to one of those “rubber cup” modems.

        /Still died of dysentery though…

        • Bob Sinclair

          Would you have lived if you had disinfected the modem first?

  • Bob Sinclair

    To quote Tow Mater: “How can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?”

  • KenB

    “Some students apparently used their eye for detail.”

    However good or bad this particular lesson plan was, there needs to be much more of this (eye for detail) happening with students. This is connected with problem-solving skills that seem to be in much shorter supply than back in the good old days.

    Although I’m a ‘parent’ of only cats, I think parents of kids can have a big influence on these skills developing in the many hours their kids aren’t in school. Of course, the parents need some of those skills, too.

  • Hi, I’m “the person (in the video above) who created Zombie Based Learning.” The assignment that is being discussed here is definitely not part of my award-winning and highly-used zombie curriculum. I don’t know if that teacher created that assignment or if they found it somewhere else online, but I agree with the parent in this story that it very much crossed the line.

    I don’t think violence should be encouraged and we should not encourage students to image themselves committing acts of violence. My curriculum is about using geographic thinking skills to avoid a zombie spread and to choose the best locations to rebuild society.

    I hope the teacher in this situation learns from this and uses better judgement going forward. It disappoints me that students were involved in this disturbing assignment.

    Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.