Sunday, March 31, 2013

Zombies: a week of unorthodox learning with the undead

For our Creativity Week group, we took a suggestion from the students. They wanted to do live action roll playing, they wanted to perform, they wanted to camp, and they wanted to cook. Plus, they wanted to somehow involve a zombie apocalypse. So my ever-wonderful co-teachers and I decided to roll all of this into one fabulous project and the ZAG (Zombie Apocalypse Group) was born. 

The Survivalists (attempt to) build a tent

We divided our larger group into five teams (three lead by teachers and two lead by Seniors), each of which focused on a different task:

1. Survivalists (working to prepare any survivors for life in the wild): outdoor survival skills

2. Scouts (preparing us to act as zombies): learning the Thriller dance and designing make-up

3. Sympathizers (trying to understand the zombies' point of view): making a documentary about the lives of zombies

A Scientist making grains
4. Scientists (creating the anti-zombie serum with grains): cooking up delicious various grain combinations in the forms of cookies, tortillas, pancakes, rice, etc (with lots of supervision but no instruction)

5. Specialists (providing in-depth knowledge about zombie history, behavior, etc): creating a wikipedia-esque data base of zombie facts

We also just did some stuff that is plain ole fun. 

We went to see "Warm Bodies" in theaters. (I was very grateful for the director's humanizing stance of zombies).

Jose showing off our make-up...
and his best zombie face
Furthermore, a Zombie Apocalypse would not be complete without a dangerous exchange between the undead and the living, so of course we had situations in which students were being zombified. These battles were overwhelmingly exciting but also had strict rules. You can access our full rules of engagement here but basically, zombies could be cured either via a sock ball to the chest or by eating grains. In case you weren't aware, zombies aren't actually out in search of brains but's all  big misunderstanding.  The battles were pretty much dodgeball games with lots of groaning. The kids loved them and so we carefully coordinated the attacks at random times across the week, infecting different teams which would then attack other teams, whereupon the battles would ensue.

We created (very sticky) zombie make-up out of corn syrup, chocolate syrup and food coloring.
Applying make-up

Learning Michael Jackson's moves
Our final coup de grace was a glorious guerrilla performance of Michael Jackson's Thriller. The entire group (that's 27 kids and three teachers) learned the entire Thriller dance in less than three days and then rocked it in front of the entire school. The Scouts learned it themselves first and then taught it to the rest of the students in smaller groups.

Practicing Thriller 

In the end, I think the students came away with an educational yet non-traditional learning experience. 

He's been zombified!
Some had learned how to direct and edit videos, while others learned that you can't make bread rise without baking soda or powder. Some learned how to start a fire, while others learned how to teach dance. Regardless of their team, the students had to work despite limited resources and repeated failures. Most importantly, they were all quite proud of themselves and we all had a blast! (Although let me tell you, us teachers were exhausted!)

Creativity Week

My school is a pretty unique place. One of my favorite parts about my job (other than my relationships with my students, which is far and away my favorite part) is that I get to coordinate Creativity Week. This means that I poll students and staff to find out what sorts of wacky projects they would like to work on and then facilitate a week of work and presentations where they just go to town on the project of their liking. 

This year some of the projects included:
-building a Rube Goldberg machine
-Junk Art (making art from found objects like magazines, bottle caps, egg cartons, etc)
-Slam Poetry
-Film making
-Zombie Apocalypse!

Here's a video about a few of the different groups, made by the Creative Media group.

I really loved seeing the students outside of the traditional educational setting. If only we had Creativity Week every week!