LAYTON -- Who knew? A zombie apocalypse program between high school students can actually offer the important life-skill lessons.
That was how Layton High School Media Specialist Fawn Morgan saw it when she formed an Apocalypse Preparedness Initiative for students, during which they pretended to be zombies infecting as many humans as they could during the three-day game period this week. All that was in an effort to incorporate learning without the kids realizing it.
"The state has mandated that librarians teach research skills, which is now a big part of the common core program," said Morgan, who knew the kids are interested in zombies, especially given that it is a popular theme in young adult literature. "The students love Halloween, so I thought this was a perfect opportunity to slip in a little school work too."
When they first secretly drew the position out of a hat, one zombie was claimed, while the remaining students started the game as humans. Within minutes, the competition had begun, and Morgan's hidden agenda began evolving.
Each participating student had a wristband, indicating whether they were a human or zombie. Participants were not allowed to hide their wristbands, so that at any point during the game, a zombie could mark a human's wristband, turning them into a zombie.
The kids first began researching zombies to come up with their best strategies. Fawn said one student had researched and created their own guide. Another group teamed together, and once some of them were infected as zombies, tried to protect the remaining humans in their group.
"In real life, you have to learn how to collaborate and work together as a team," said Morgan. "Most developed strategies right off the bat, since they already knew about zombies."
Senior Mason Roberts, who ended up being one of the zombies with the most kills, having infected six other people, said he preferred working alone. "I learned that to survive in the world, you couldn't even trust your friends sometimes, because my friend is the one who killed me," said Roberts. "Once I was a zombie though, I tried to make it seem like I wasn't suspicious, and was always watching for opportunities."
Part of the research process included collecting data, working through the network of student participants of the zombie apocalypse, trying to determine who was a zombie, which ones to be extra cautious around, which zombie had the most kills, and how many humans still remained.
"We were amazed at how many surviving humans we had -- a couple dozen," Morgan said.
The highlight of the event for Morgan was seeing the kids talk about their experience at the end of the activity.
"The most important part in research is evaluating their strategies. Of course, we didn't call it that," said Morgan, "But we had them tell us their best strategies for evading the zombies."
Some said they acted like they weren't playing the game, others tried not to get fidgety when zombies were around, some learned how to run like crazy, and others said they avoided places where they knew zombies would be located.
Senior Liz Brunsilius said she has always been obsessed with zombies. Brunsilius said her best strategy was, "You have to be a Lancer, and show no fear."
She also said hiding really well and being quick on her feet even with a loaded backpack also came in handy.
"There was definitely an excitement being chased by zombies and hoping not to get caught," said Brunsilius.
The participants in the game were well aware that realistically, there won't be a zombie apocalypse, but Morgan knows the students will encounter real-life situations similar to their zombie apocalypse.
"In real-life business situations, you have to decide who is willing to work with you on a project, and who is in it to be cut-throat," said Morgan. "This has taught them to work together, and involves life skills they will use the rest of their lives."