Zombie Apocalypse

So, I’ve had an idea for a while now to somehow incorporate the current fascination with zombies into my chemistry class. I just couldn’t think how.

I had a little idea over the summer: Zombie Apocalypse Team, as in “I definitely want you on my zombie apocalypse team!” I thought about this a bit and thought I could use ranks (as in private, sergeant, general) to help motivate students to a higher level of mastery. I’m not into external motivation so much, but I thought I’d give it a whirl. I also did not like the military sense of it either, because I knew I’d immediately lose some students’ interest for the year. Later I translated that to “How well are you living after the apocalypse?” (barely surviving, getting by, life of ease, living large, etc.) , which I still might use.

Well, along comes EdCampCT, where I met up with Katy Reddick (link) my daughter’s erstwhile Latin teacher, who uses werewolves in her class. A brief discussion with her pointed me in a new direction – “You need a story arc. Something to use all year. Maybe the labs could be zombie related.”  I publicly agreed and privately thought “How can possibly I do that?” So I let it sit in the right side of my brain for a while.

Why a  zombie apocalypse theme? First, I secretly changed the theme. I didn’t want the year to be about how to kill zombies with chemistry. The real theme is “Rebuilding the post zombie apocalyptic society”. This allows me much wider latitude in re-framing what we do in lab.

We had a class discussion of the good, the bad, and the ugly  in such a society. Power’s out, transportation is out, so  our materials will need to be recycled.  I’ll let some electricity in for the electronic balances, because the old triple beams are going to get tedious real fast. In my mind, I use 1830 as a reference year. If it didn’t exist then, we don’t have it after the apocalypse.

I’ve tried other ideas in the past: the environment, food, health and other standard fare. None really seemed to capture students imaginations. Zombies has. Not all students, but when you hear and audible “Yes!” on the first day of school, things are looking up.

The secret plot it to use this to incorporate more “E” in STEM. By going back to 1830, when chemistry was coming into its own, I have a plausible reason to recreate a bunch of stuff. I plan to incorporate much more engineering into labs this year.

My next post will describe the first lab where I used these ideas.