A “Zombie-Based Learning” unit at a Minnesota high school left some parents furious after students were asked which three people they would sacrifice to appease zombies and why, the Alexandria Echo Press reports.
“It is a zombie apocalypse,” read instruction for the assignment obtained by the newspaper. “You have to sacrifice three of ‘your’ people to survive. Write about who they would be and why. No martyrs here — you must sacrifice three people.”
The assignment was given to a ninth grade geography class at Parkers Prairie High School in western Minnesota earlier this month. It also asked students to list 25 objects in their house that they could use to kill a zombie, the Echo Press reports.
When some parents found out, they were in disbelief.
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“I was appalled, I was in shock,” Michelle Diedrich, one of the student’s parents, told KSTP. “Of all the school shootings, of all the bullying, now we're telling children to pick three kids.”
The principal of the school told KSTP that she started looking into the assignment before Diedrich raised concerns. The teacher and school decided to retract the assignment and not grade it.
The school had been using the zombie curriculum for about three years, according to KSTP.
“The teacher addressed it right away in class the next time he saw the students,” Carey Johnson, the school’s principal, told the TV station. “And he apologized for any due stress he may have caused to any students and guaranteed that this assignment would not be graded, it would be discarded.”
Meanwhile, the man who created the curriculum agrees with parents that the questions the Minnesota students were asked were worrisome— and says they weren’t included in his work.
“The Zombie-Based Learning that I’ve written and published does not talk about people dying, killing zombies or even weapons,” David Hunter, a former teacher in Washington state who originally designed the curriculum, wrote in an email to the Echo Press. “It worries me that these (questions) were seen as good ideas.”
Hunter, who taught in Bellevue, Wash., came up with the idea several years ago and used the website Kickstarter to raise enough money to launch it in June 2012, according to the curriculum’s website.
“Zombie-Based Learning is an original geography curriculum using a zombie apocalypse theme to engage even the least-engaged students, with an accompanying original graphic novel,” the website explains.
Hunter told KING 5 that he designed the program to help teach middle school students who were having trouble mastering geography. And already in 2014, more than 1,300 classrooms were using the curriculum.
“I knew there were much more exciting ways to talk about geography,” Hunter told KING 5.
The curriculum is designed for grades four through eight, according to its website.
And educators have said that the curriculum, used as designed by Hunter, works well in the classroom.
“When you ask students at the end of class, What’s today’s takeaway?’ They all get it. There’s just not a lot of re-teaching needed,” Shana Brown, who was teaching 6th grade geography, told KING 5.
At least one student at the Minnesota high school who had done the curriculum in a previous year didn’t see what the big deal was.
“I do remember this assignment, our class had no problem with this assignment,” Gunnar Thoennes, a junior at the high school, told the Echo Press.