August 7th, 2014. Madrid. Thirteen zombie attacks reported near the city center. The following day, Toledo declares a state of emergency in response to six zombie attacks. You are the chief advisor to The Center for Disease Control. A colour-coded alert needs to be issued to the various regions of Spain, based on the likelihood that zombies will strike these regions next.
Zombie psychologists have kindly provided an index of zombie likes and dislikes to guide your decisions. See Figure A:
Accurate alerts will require you to make use of Spain’s topographic and climate data, in addition to understanding the physical geography, and cultural attractions. More importantly, you will need to know how different cities are connected–high-speed trains? Busy highways? Rivers?–as this knowledge will reveal the routes zombies may travel to fulfil their ghastly ambitions.
Zombie-based geography is the brain-child of David Hunter. The scenario described above (in abbreviated form) is how I adapted David’s ideas to meet my own student’s needs, personalities, and objectives. An upcoming school trip to Spain inspired the choice of location.
For content– keeping in mind this project happened over the course of eight, fifty-minute sessions, the objective was to develop:
- Spatial analysis through the concepts of structure, relationships, and connections
- The use of topographical, climate, physical, and political maps to analyse data and make predictions about human, (and zombie) migrations
We focused on ‘Communication’ as the Approach to Learning (ATL), by learning how to use a green-screen to create a video. We also communicated our understanding of spatial analysis through geographic tools (maps).
Having students video-record the process of their decision-making while solving problems turned out to be an excellent practice in metacognition. We all know students learn from solving problems, but there is not much attention given to student’s explaining the process by which the solution was achieved. Those of you who use games to promote learning may consider a similar ‘think-aloud’ practice, as it is sometimes hard to access what exactly is being learned. This sort of project also has a lot of potential for ESL instruction, as it motivates students to learn, and develops visual and oral skills of communication.
Here are two student samples that I think illustrate how learning can be creative, effective., and fun… Hope you enjoy!