Geeks -vs- Zombies
Teams lost the points of players who became zombies. So to win, teams had to avoid zombification.
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Zombies for the students were seen largely as more creature than human, even when students were faced with classmates who were now flesh-eating corpses. Each student had to list three people from their lives who they wanted in their larger group and culture in this zombie apocalypse scenario. I wanted there to be an emotional tie for students beyond the bounds of a shared class experience, something I thought might be influential when making tough survival decisions.
The students surprised me with their insights in the best possible way — pointing to their own bonds with these people and the cultural reinforcement of the importance of those relationships as both a strength and a weakness in the situation. Fallout 4: just a sole survivor and his dog against the apocalypse. Students had to list strengths and weaknesses for each group member, each of which resulted in points being added to or deducted from their personal and group totals.
The discussion of potential benefits like animal companionship or the stress of finding oneself in an apocalypse also led to discussions about mental health in the situation, something we had discussed throughout the semester. Some groups, though, did abandon people, leading to the first zombies within the class itself. And is death the worst-case scenario for a person and, if so, what is the cultural context of death as a concept, particularly in contrast to health — i. They then had to discuss the pros and cons of the area in the context of a zombie apocalypse.
Once done, I told students to pass their sheet to the left to be relocated.
2 thoughts on “(Geeky Sketch) Zombies”
This forced students to think about two different locations, including questions like population size, natural or man-made hazards, and pre-existing cultural beliefs, behaviors, and power structures. By allowing students to choose one location and to discuss the same set of needs and problems in another location they were assigned, albeit unknowingly, by their peers, I was able to test not only the knowledge they retained of specific locations, but also if there was a pattern to what they were retaining about different locations we discussed.
I wanted students to demonstrate what they remembered about the locations—the people there, and issues that could affect their efforts to survive like climate change, disease spread, or environmental justice and racism.
This part of the exercise also required students to weigh different potential risks against one another, just as people do in their real life day-to-day and emergency decisions, a theme we had discussed throughout the semester. Some students noted that they were lucky to be able to choose the location of the exercise which, in their mind, made them more likely to be able to survive, but also allowed them to avoid problems like air, water, or soil quality that we had discussed in the context of environmental justice issues.
The groups then had to describe what they felt their group should prioritize, beyond simply having the most people avoid zombification. Throughout the course, we had discussed beliefs and behaviors in different cultures, including how they were important in moments of crises and disaster related to health or environmental hazards. For instance, we can consider how in Hurricane Katrina some people believed that surviving previous storms was an indicator that Katina was manageable and how this belief influenced their behavior by discouraging their evacuation.
I also had students think about the supplies they would need to survive and how they would maintain access to those supplies, combining their explanations of what they believed was important with how they would need to behave to get and maintain those supplies believed to be crucial to survival.
Dice rolls in the next series of moves determined zombie bites at random, introducing an element of luck that students had to plan around, especially as they organized to see which group members they would send to find ingredients for a zombie vaccine. They had to think about the practical elements of survival both for the larger group and the foragers, determining the best balance for the needs of both.
Luck with the dice rolls also determined how successful their foraging group and ultimate vaccine were.
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They had to present this information to the class, opening up a larger discussion. This discussion was meant to give students a chance to reflect on what they had learned in the exercise, their decisions throughout the process, and how it related to the class as a whole. I find reflection to be a critical pedagogical tool. Reflective discussion as a group in the classroom has benefits for students ranging from self-examination and promoting individual confidence to enabling students to better learn from others.
This classroom is a total deadzone.
St Grizzle's School for Girls, Geeks & Tag-along Zombies
Pedagogically, the examples in the zombie assignment served as a space for students to demonstrate that they had retained information from the semester and could apply it to other scenarios. Allowing the students to apply knowledge from throughout the semester to the zombie apocalypse scenario gave them space to piece together cultural, health, or environmental issues from different contexts.
The exercises encouraged students to consider our discussions of environmental justice in Flint with perspectives on long-term contamination in Bhopal, in relation to ideas about health from our conversations about cancer from a medical anthropology perspective, thinking about the diagnosis not just a problem of physical health, but tied intrinsically to gender, identity, and culture. And to take this a step further, the exercise allowed students to think about such constructions in an applied sense — what would these mean in a real world lived experience of the zombie apocalypse — would clean water, avoiding long-term soil contamination, and their cultural constructions of what it meant to be healthy play a role in the supplies they needed to survive?
The students, however, were also quite engaged with who won the game, what elements they thought were fair or not, and how they thought their knowledge from the semester played a role in their success or failure. While sometimes frustrated with things like dice rolls, or game twists like moving locations, the students seemed to enjoy the exercise.
They were animated and engaged for the whole period. They clearly demonstrated that they knew the material from the semester and could use critical thinking skills to apply it in new ways, something I was thrilled to see in action. The students themselves asked tough questions — both of each other and me — and pushed themselves and their peers to think about things like group dynamics, their own knowledge and skills both inside and outside of the classroom, and their desire to survive as a group in new ways.
The students also raised questions for me that have pushed me to make modifications to the exercise itself. But why, my students asked, should the zombies not instead have to figure out who the most at-risk person in a group was and take them? I have since made that change in the exercise. The exercise underscored to me the value of interactive pedagogical events in class.
It revealed how topics trending in popular culture can be leveraged not only to get students engaged with topics like anthropology and disaster research, but also to get students thinking about their lives outside the classroom and how to apply critical thinking skills to important concepts and their application in larger settings. This ability to allow students the space to think critically and engage with real world examples and anthropological concepts, in combination with other literature on zombie pedagogy, underscores the importance of such exercises in the classroom.
Jenn Trivedi is a disaster anthropologist. She earned her Ph. Her research interests include disaster vulnerability, evacuations, recovery efforts, media depictions, and the importance of historical and cultural contexts to our understanding of disaster and response. Bishop, Kyle. Kimble, Julie. Doctoral Dissertation. Moraru, Christian.
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Zombies | Geek and Sundry
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