Zombie-Based Learning Assignment and Rubrics

What is Zombie-based Learning (ZBL)?

Designed by high school geography teacher, David Hunter, Zombie-based Learning (ZBL) combines project-based learning principles with a "zombie apocalypse" narrative to produce academic rigor and engage students with content in and outside of the classroom. Problem-based, case-based, and project-based learning have been designed to combat the inert knowledge problem. Inert knowledge is information one can express but not use. In short, the learner does not understand information, and therefore, cannot apply it to problem-solving situations.

How to incorporate Zombie-based Learning?

Consider the theme of an outbreak: whether it is bacteria in groundwater or zombies spreading their virus, students would need to come up with a viable solution to the problem. In order to do so, they need to use creative problem solving and apply content knowledge to the situation. For example, in a public health course, students could identify the cause of the outbreak, figure out how to survive, and stop the outbreak from spreading.

In the assignment example below, students will derive the apocalyptic event, analyze the landscape, and search out a solution to establish a base-camp. Then, based on their research and analysis, they will present their situation and solution to the class. While themed for a geography course, consider your content and how you may apply the principles of problem-based learning and themes that engage your students.


Zombie-Based Learning: Post-Apocalyptic Paper and Presentation Assignment


In this assignment, students have the opportunity to synthesize a number of concepts from geography through research and creative writing. A cataclysmic event has occurred causing widespread devastation. You must lead a group of people to rebuild a colony in an area that can sustain life.  For this assignment you must:

  • Explain the cataclysmic event. Was it a biohazard, a volcanic eruption, a major plate shift, etc.? How did it spread and what were the casualties?
  • Identify possible geographical regions for settlement, the criteria that they meet to sustain life long-term, and justify where you plan on settling based on that criteria.
  • The time of year is important.  Accurately describe the climate zone for the region you have picked. Based on the geography and landforms, what are the climate challenges and obstacles that you may face, either en route to your settlement location or upon settlement? (Think about the challenges the Pilgrims faced when they landed in New England)
  • Analyze the major concepts and processes introduced in the text and online materials. Include and describe at least 6 major concepts or processes (examples:  subduction, demographic transition, urbanization, the inter-tropical convergence zone, the rainshadow effect) that escalated the cataclysmic event and impact resettlement. At least 2 of these concepts or processes must be physical and at least 3 must be human.
  • Concepts or processes must come from the following sub-disciplines of geography - either: landforms, climate, resources, population, and economic, urban or political geography.
  • Refer to at least 2 latitude and longitude coordinates or a line of longitude or latitude in your paper. These coordinates must occur in the region you are writing about. How will survivors find your colony?

Paper Requirements:

  • Eight to Ten double-spaced, typewritten pages (10-12 point font, 1” margins). Note: title page, graphics, maps, and bibliography do NOT count toward the page requirement.
  • Be sure to include the following:
    • Written in the style and format of a narrative. Places and times visited must be consistent with the geographic context of your region.
    • Students are not required to use citations of their sources within the text in this assignment. However, students are required to include a bibliography or list references (Instructors: You could require a bibliography and assign an annotated bibliography, see here for a sample annotated bibliography.) You must use at least 5 sources for this assignment. These sources may be from journals, books, or the Internet.
    • Be sure to include place names in your description. At least 12 place names must be mentioned in your description (not necessarily from the place name lists from this class).
    • Paper due date: Late papers will be accepted as late as xx/xx/xx but will be penalized 10 points. Papers will not be accepted after xx/xx/xx.

In your paper, you are expected to resettle a region for which you describe the various physical and human (or social) processes at work in order to restore a successful colony. The phenomena or process must be accurate and must be contemporary. You must provide examples of each process using concepts from our readings, additional research, and geographic specific details of your resettlement environment. (Instructors: You may want to provide the students with an example here.)

Presentation requirements:

  • Presentation due date:  ________
  • Presentations should be 10-15 minutes in length
  • You must use some sort of PowerPoint, visual aid, or handout.
  • Here are some helpful tips for a successful presentation:
    • Organize your research (creating an outline would be helpful) into a coherent sequence.
    • Avoid reading your entire presentation.
    • Review your notes before presenting.
    • Add an introduction to tell what you will talk about, and add a conclusion to summarize what you have discussed.  Leave out any irrelevant or uninteresting material.
    • Visualize yourself presenting to the class and go through all your ideas in a comfortable, relaxed fashion.
    • Use only brief notes, give your presentation to the class and have fun!


This assignment is worth a total of 100 points. You will be assessed on the following:

  • Paper:
    • Organization (15 pts)
    • Grammar & Mechanics (15 pts) (this includes bibliography)
    • Content (50 pts)
  • Presentation:
    • Organization (5 pts)
    • Presentation (5 pts)
    • Content (15 pts)


Notes for Faculty: Use the rubrics below evaluate the paper and presentation for this assignment.


Have more questions? Submit a request


Powered by Zendesk