Using Zombies to Teach Geography

Seattle-area teacher David Hunter wasn’t content to let his students memorize facts like passive zombies in the classroom. Instead, he created a curriculum in which students have to actively understand and use geography concepts to escape the dead, who then come back to life in a Zombie Apocalypse.

The zombie narrative Hunter designed—which appeals to kids the same way a video game does—is the framework for teaching middle school geography based on national standards. The story has several parts: Students prepare for the impending outbreak, then they have to survive the chaos, find a new settlement, build a new community, and plan for the future of their new home. Instead of just studying existing maps, for example, they have to design their own to track the spread of the zombies. In the end, students have to use higher-order thinking to solve real-world problems—or almost real-world, that is.

With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Hunter is developing a graphic novel that tells the story of the Zombie Apocalypse, introduces geography concepts, and encourages critical thinking. His downloadable curriculum also includes lesson plans, assessments, and grading rubrics, which serve as resources for teachers throughout his district and around the country. It’s just one example of how many teachers are using technology to personalize learning and develop their own curricula for project-based and standards-based learning—often based on the interests and passions of students.