What can teachers do to get their students interested in reading and language arts? Maybe planning class materials with a zombie theme would be a step in the right direction. And that’s exactly what Rich Harshberge, a middle school teacher in Hermiston, Oregon, did. But the administration at the middle school where he works canceled the extracurricular “zombie survival” class because of the unapproved curriculum.
Despite the popularity of the class, the school issued a statement on their website that states:
“The use of zombie-related materials is unfortunate and was not approved in accordance with district curricular policies… We extend our regrets to anyone offended by their use (www.today.com).
Taking a standard school subject and turning it on its ear by pairing it with an interesting or unexpected element is an approach to learning often found in college classes. A few off-the-wall college courses featured on seventeen.com include iPhone Application Development (Stanford University), Tree Climbing (Bingham University), and even Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse – Catastrophes and Human Behavior (Michigan State University).
Harshberge’s attempt to bring a little humor to a middle school reading class clearly ruffled some feathers, despite the success of the class in getting students engaged in the material. Let’s hope that his enthusiasm and innovation inspires other teachers to think about ways to spice up their own classes in a way that keeps the administration at bay.
Zombies in literature
Supernatural creatures and literature sometimes go hand-in-hand, as books such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter have shown. And like it or not, the monster/literature mash-up trend is here to stay — and perfect for getting book-averse middle schoolers interested in reading.
Harshberge’s innovative approach to a language arts class may have taken advantage of some of the zombie literature that is hot right now. Here are five great examples of good zombie reading, for anyone who is a fan of The Walking Dead, or wants to be prepared in case of a real life zombie attack.
1. The Zombie Survival Handbook: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks
2. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
3. As the World Dies (trilogy) by Rhiannon Frater
4. The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead by Roger Ma
5. Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry
Photo credit: Michael R Perry