Zombies as Learning Tools?

You've heard of DML, but have you heard of ZBL? Zombie-Based Learning is a new approach that uses the undead scenario to challenge students.

Pittsburgh is the hometown of Spark. It’s also the home of George Romero, the director of Night of the Living Dead and the undisputed “godfather of all zombies.” His cult classic movie was filmed in the area, debuted here, and Pittsburghers have had the zombie bug ever since. So you can imagine how excited we were to hear that someone else out there with a love of zombies also has a love of creative learning — and the genius idea to combine the two. Harnessing the power of the undead to create fun learning tools? Now that’s cool.

Creepy Creative Learning

If you follow the Spark blog, you’re probably familiar with the term DML (digital media learning) but have you heard of ZBL? Probably not. ZBL stands for “Zombie-Based Learning” and if David Hunter has anything to say about it, the term will become a daily part of schools across the world. Hunter’s Kickstarter project entitled, “Zombie-Based Learning: Geography taught in Zombie Apocalypse” is exactly what it sounds like — a full and complete geography curriculum set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. Hunter explains:

“What we’re doing here, is teaching how to be a geographer by learning skills needed to survive a zombie apocalypse. Imagine being in a classroom where instead of reading about maps, you’re designing them to show the spread of a zombie outbreak. Instead of reading about the distribution of resources on Earth in a textbook, you are researching available resources to plan your post-outbreak settlement. I’m not just talking about learning where places are or memorizing capitals of states or countries, I’m talking about learning the deeper concepts of geography that geographers actually use. And all in an exciting scenario.”

In short, the project takes traditional learning tools, adds a fun twist, and bam! Students who once thought geography was boring suddenly take an interest and get engaged in the learning process. Hunter says, ” I also believe that the Zombie genre has the potential to engage often disengaged students, providing an alternative to boring textbook reading.” We think the lesson plans he’s proposed seem pretty engaging too. Just check out the “scenes” he describes on his Kickstarter page:

  • Planning for the Outbreak. News of a zombie-like outbreak has reached your community. You are helping to plan in case the outbreak reaches your area.
  • Post Outbreak Survival. The outbreak has reached your area and chaos has followed. You use your skills to just try and survive and find other survivors.
  • Finding a Place to Settle. Through surviving you have met with other survivors, now you are trying to decide upon a safe place
  • Building a Community. With your group of survivors, you make decisions to build a safe and sustainable community.
  • Planning for the Future. Based on what you know about Geography, and based on a knowledge of the past, your community makes long term plans for survival and rebuilding a life.
With such a fun and unique concept, it’s no surprise that the project quickly found funding. In fact, it’s nearly doubled its goal of $5,000 but donations are still rolling in. That might have something to do with all of the awesome “rewards” you get for donating — like curriculum design tutorials, digital downloads, teaching books, t-shirts and even the opportunity to appear as a “character” in the curriculum. All extra funding the project receives goes to making it more engaging for students and bolstering video and online elements. If you want to learn more head over to the Kickstarter page to watch a video, read more, or donate to support the project.


While we know it’s hard to top zombies, we want to know — are you working on a project that makes learning fun? Share your favorite Kickstarters, your creative learning tools, or even your best zombie survival tips with us on Facebook or by tweeting them to @Sparkpgh.

Published May 25, 2012