Practice

Rationale for Facilitator’s Guide to Zombie Apocalypse

This artifact is a set of instructions for a game I created in response to feedback from my students after my first year of teaching an Exploratory course on Sustainability. Despite limiting written work during the course to graphic organizers and question sheets in response to short videos, I was informed there was “too much work” in my class, and that it needed to be “more fun.” I think it is an excellent example of my practice as an Inclusive Educator, and that it epitomizes my approach to Restorative Education. It is inclusive, interactive, inquiry-driven, place-based and offers excellent opportunities for service learning through several of the seven levels.

Several of my research and theory artifacts demonstrate the multitude of benefits experienced by young people when they get to spend time in “natural” spaces, especially if there are opportunities for physical exercise that are inclusive for young people with exceptionalities. Many of my students ask to play “manhunt” or “capture the flag,” and although I strive to get them outside, I find these and other wide games have a variety of sexist, militaristic, racist or otherwise colonial overtones. As a Girl Guide, I also enjoyed these types of outdoor wide games, especially one known as “Survival,” which emphasizes predator / prey relationships and features ecological knowledge building around herbivores, omnivores and predators (Becky's Guiding Resource Centre, 2019).

 

Survival still features “man” dominating all other species with the use of guns, however, and offers no opportunity for players to learn anything particular about the place they are in – it can be played anywhere, the exact same way. Such games are not compatible with Indigenous ways of knowing that emphasize interconnection and balance between humans and other species (Littlebear, 2012). Also, none of these games offer any opportunities for students who have physical, intellectual or behavioural exceptionalities to participate, let alone learn how to play games fairly. The levels of this game are an adaptation I made when I realized that some of my students did not yet have the socio-emotional skills to navigate being “tagged” without becoming quite upset. By mimicking the “level” component of most of my students’ preferred activity - video games – I was able to scaffold their learning in a smaller, more controlled and supported environment as needed until the class “achieved” the next level.    

 

In this game, I have applied my development of theory and research to my practice, in a way that meets my learners where they are at and yet takes them to a deeper level of understanding and skill in a relatively brief amount of time. It offers educators like myself a flexible, nuanced and inexpensive way to engage almost all learners in building physical, emotional, mental and ecological literacy, agency and resilience. In particular, the role of the Knowledge Keeper in the Reconciliation, Climate Chaos and Sustainability levels of the game offers opportunities to include and build the confidence of neurologically and physically diverse learners, especially if the teacher has access to one EA. This role is coveted by my students, perhaps in part because it celebrates the contributions of First Nations peoples and importance of their cultural knowledge without practicing cultural appropriation. I think this role could even be easily adapted to include learners with visual impairments in this game through using a pin on the laminated game cards to indicate numbers in braille. We do not currently have any students who need this adaptation at this time, but I think it is worth noting because in my experience, very few outdoor games are this inclusive.   

 

A final reason I think this is an important artifact to include in my portfolio is that it is an expression of learner-centered education which exemplifies my practice of youth-driven empowerment. Through chatting with my middle school-aged nephew (technically my husband’s nephew) over the summer, I came up with the basic concept for Zombie Apocalypse. I am going to ask him if he would like credit in helping to create it, or if he would prefer to remain anonymous. I am going to ask my students about this as well. Four classes in my first rotation of the Sustainability Exploratory course this year have played the game on numerous occasions and have offered feedback and recommendations. This artifact is the updated version of the game, which I have been invited to share with other educators at a significant professional development event in our region called “Tapestry.” It will be featured as one of several inclusive, educational games I have been developing for my workshop on “Gaming for Climate Justice.”

 

References

Becky's Guiding Resource Centre. (2019). “Wide Games and Stalking Games”. Accessed at: https://dragon.sleepdeprived.ca/games/wide_games/wide_games.htm

Little Bear, L. (2012). Traditional knowledge and humanities: A perspective by a Blackfoot. Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 39(4), 518–527.

© 2019 by Emily Menzies.