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Bellevue teacher prepares students for zombie apocalypse

Courtesy of David Hunter and Etsy
Zombie-based learning is the brraaaaaaain-child of Bellevue teacher David Hunter. The inset image is from the alternative history map created by Etsy.

So, when the zombie apocalypse comes, where will you flee? Should you hunker down on a remote island or blend into the urban landscape? Will the undead funnel onto bridges and viaducts?  Do they like low ground or high ground?

So many questions … now don’t you wish you’d paid more attention in geography class?

"Zombies" in the news

As a Florida television station put it (Florida being ground-zero for the “zombie outbreak”): First came Miami – the case of a naked man eating most of another man's face … then Texas … then Maryland … then New Jersey … And, online sites like The Daily Beast had some fun with the story. That site made a map of the “zombie-like attack” with this story: 11 Signs of the Zombie Apocalypse.

Of course,  a zombie apocalypse is a made-for-Twitter story and has bloomed there. And, the "outbreak" of zombie news fits right into a Bellevue middle school teacher's curriculum plans.

David Hunter figured out that a zombie attack would favor the geographically well-informed, so he is creating a geography course for his 6th graders centered on this scenario, which he calls “Zombie-Based Learning.”

He created a Kickstarter campaignto fund it, hoping to raise about $5,000. At the campaign’s close today, he had raked in $11,886 in contributions.

“It’s really surprising. It’s a lot more than I was expecting,” Hunter said. “People are really willing to support innovative educational things when they’re focused on helping students to learn in an engaged way.”

He says the idea came from a satirical “alternative history” map he was playing around with in class, which ostensibly recorded the Pittsburgh “Living Dead Outbreaks and Attacks” of 1875.

The above map was created by and share with permission from Etsy's Alternate Histories Webpage.

“They got really into looking at, well why are these outbreaks happening here? Why is the epicenter of the outbreak here? Why are they moving along the river, is it spreading down the waterway? Those are the kinds questions we want geographers to ask when they’re looking at maps,” Hunter said.

Hunter plans to use the money he’s raised to create illustrations, develop a narrative and exercises, downloads, and research the curriculum’s effectiveness.

A typical lesson might begin with an installment of an ongoing story, in the vein of a role playing game, and then leap off to exercises. Students will have to predict how the zombie outbreak is spreading, where safe havens are likely to be located, where choke points for supplies might crop up, and so on.

CDC playing along ...

Hunter hopes to construct the book like a graphic novel, and says he’s in talks with the Centers for Disease Controlabout writing the foreword.

Over the years the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a couple of tongue-in-cheek "zombie warnings," which really are just disaster-preparedness stunts.

Then, the agency made it official: Zombies don't exist.

"CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms)," wrote agency spokesman David Daigle in an email to The Huffington Post.

Real teaching, real survival

And Hunter says this is not just a gimmick. It will be rooted in rigorous learning standards for geography.

“Even though it’s fiction, and its hopefully going to stay fictional, there’s a lot of roots in the real world, and tracking movement in geographic concepts,” he said.

Below is Hunter's video about the zombie-based curriculum:

And on the off chance that the scenario doesn’t “stay fictional,” Hunter’s 6th graders are going to have the edge in our post-apocalyptic wasteland.

So kids, use those brains before they get eaten.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.