20 Oct 2015

Infectious Disease Investigators - Zombie Unit

We spend the first three weeks of Term 4 doing an integrated unit with our Year 9 students.  We include all the subjects they have doing in seperate classes for the whole year.  Teams of teachers about 4 per class get together to plan and deliver these units.

The students are given four options to choose which unit they are interested in.
  • STEAM - Science, Technology, English, Arts, Maths
  • Arts, Society, and Culture
  • Primary Inudstries and Environment
  • Sport and Hauora
I worked with the STEAM team this year and we have had a lot of fun designing and delivering a unit on Infectious Diseases - Using the context of the fictional disease Zomitis, which has zombie like symptoms.
Basically we are pretty much did a unit on Zombies!

The staff have had heaps of fun doing this and so have the students.

The introduction to the unit was an awesome surprise corpse to study. I wrote it up, videoed it and recored the students responses on day one in this post here.

From here the students are on a journey as disease investigators.  Every morning we show a section of a "Live" Emergency Broadcast based in America that someone kind person has created which provides a great story line to the unit.

From here they have breifing documents of tasks to complete with complex vocabulary to decipher (english skills).  Tasks such as:
Statistical information on the spread of the disease based on a Cruise Ship scenario
Scientific experiments of growing and killing bacteria to find something that kills zomitis cells
Anatomy and Physiology Study - Dance and performing
Worst case scenaioro, post apolcalyptic survival strategies.

They have to wrap all this up into an emergency new broadcast to the public of New Zealand in a similiar fasion to one we showed above every morning to them.

One of the 10 Emergency Broadcasts that were created

We went on a trip to laser tag to develop strategic planning skills and team collaboration principles in high pressure environments.

The Final Mission

This was so much fun.
The final mission is on the last day after the have created and presented their emergency broadcasts.  They had a wide game.  
Which involved completing in challenges in small groups to collect pieces of a map.  

Then using that map to get all the research they have done to the research facility past the Zombies (teachers).

I have written a blog talking about the gamification and the final mission in more detail.  Check it out here - Gamification in the Zombie Unit.

Student Feedback
We learned things like, strategy for teams, what goes into a media broadcast, interpreting statsitical data, growing and testing bacteria, how to interpret new and complex words.

We felt involved, it felt like it was real, the practical and active parts were great, laser tag is awesome,  the story was great, the context was interesting and made it seem important to do the work.

Here is what the students said.


  1. Your user feedback says it all... the students clearly became highly engaged. Not surprising when their teacher is lying on the ground displaying symptoms of zombitis. This is a great case study for the gamification of integrated learning. I'm so glad I met you at ULearn15 and hope to visit Dilworth in 2016.

    1. Engagment was high, especially for the final wide game. There was heaps to learn from about embedding the concepts into everyday practices. It does take energy and time from teachers, I think the best way is to make it student driven. They will keep each other accountable when dishing out points and XP.