'Zombie Apocalypse' wins school People's Choice award

West Shore Middle School was named one of the winners in the 2018 Follett Challenge for a performance-based learning project that had students learn to survive a natural disaster.

Tapping into pop culture, the natural disaster simulated a zombie attack: The project was called “Zombie Apocalypse.”

Earlier this year, the school learned they had received one of 10 People’s Choice awards, which gives them $8,000 in Follett products and services.

Follett Corporation is an Illinois-based company that offers educational products to schools, colleges, and public libraries. Company products include technology, scientific robotics, 3D printers, and other educational tools.

Last year, staff members at the school learned of the Follett Challenge and decided to give it a try, school officials announced earlier this year. The challenge asked educators to put together a program that involved collaboration across several disciplines and included unique and inventive ways to teach students the 21st century skills they will need in the future.

“We were very excited to be one of the People's Choice Award winners,” said Lisa Vaccino, media specialist, who produced the video with Amy Edwards, media aide.

Zombie Apocalypse had students think about the processes and decisions that need to be made in the face of an impending natural disaster. Students were required to conduct research, participate in natural disaster simulations, and even meet with Milford city officials to learn real-life decision making techniques used in real-life scenarios, such as Superstorm Sandy.

While the onslaught of a zombie revolution was attractive to the middle school age-group, the lessons students learned were far-reaching and impactful, school officials said.
A video representation of their work was submitted to the Follett Corporation, along with many other required challenge components.

The video, created and directed by school staff, shows the Milford shoreline being battered by Hurricane Sandy, and then moves to the story of how students at West Shore have been trained to be ready for a disasters.

As part of their Zombie Apocalypse learning program, the students had to imagine that a deadly disease, ready to turn them into zombies, had started in New York City and was heading their way. Outside on the school yard, stations were set up and students worked in teams. They had to determine what would make the best place to seek shelter — mountains, dry flat plains, or hills with fresh-water streams; and what to put in their emergency kits, and other life-preserving skills.

During the performance-based learning project, if they answered a problem or question correctly, there were rewarded with a supply that would help them survive.

If they were bitten by a zombie — portrayed by fellow students wandering the field — they would have to go to the medic and trade some of their supplies for an antidote.

Students quoted in the video describing the project said the learning exercise required teamwork, communication and critical thinking.

After the exercise, the students worked on making public service videos to deliver to younger students, teaching them to make an emergency kit and to stay informed.

The community got involved in the challenge when, in January, school officials asked them to go to a video link and vote for West Shore’s submission. The Milford community responded enthusiastically, resulting in the win for the school.

School Principal Paul Cavanna shared news of the school’s win in an email to staff and parents.
“This endeavor allowed us to showcase an interdisciplinary, innovative learning experience,” Cavanna wrote. “I am excited for the endless possibilities ahead for our student body.”

This article was based in part on a press release from School Spokesperson Kathy Bonetti.