Zombie Apocalypse Lessons Teach Biology, Math, Epidemiology

Texas Instruments (TI) and The Science & Entertainment Exchange, a program of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), have created a new program that will allow students to use zombie science to learn about how diseases spread, according to Amanda Woerner of FoxNews.com.

The new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Behind Hollywood Program will soon be offered in classrooms to enable students around the country to learn about how diseases spread and affect the body. The STEM program is primarily aimed towards middle school and high school students.

The STEM program will include installments on everything from forensics to zombies and superheroes. It seeks to inspire student’s interest in math and science careers by tapping into the popularity of and interest in zombie pandemics.

“STEM jobs are now the fastest growing opportunities for young people,” Melendy Lovett, president of Texas Instruments Education Technology told FoxNews.com. “So it’s really important to (us) to be part of building a strong pipeline of STEM capable students, and that’s what drives our focus, getting more students interested and excited about STEM and achieving at high levels in science and math.”

Dr. Steven Schlozman, a professor at Harvard Medical School and author of the book The Zombie Autopsies, said that the elements explored in the Behind Hollywood Program “closely echo real life scenarios of disease spread.”

So how exactly would a zombie apocalypse begin? First, mankind would need to be hit by a virus capable of simultaneously attacking multiple regions of the brain, Schlozman said. Students will learn that zombies – with their awkward, unbalanced gaits, lack of problem-solving skills, insatiable hunger and high levels of aggression – would likely have contracted a virus attacking the cerebellum, basal ganglia, amygdala, hypothalamus and frontal lobe regions of the brain.

The Behind Hollywood Program is not just figuring out how a zombie disease would attack the body, but also joining in the Zombie Virus Inoculation Task Force to learn about how to control the problem. Students will work just as if they were employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Also, students will be required to calculate the rate of disease spread and assess how to control the disease as they work on creating a vaccine. Teachers are encouraged to educate students about real diseases that have been controlled through inoculations as a parallel.

It’s easier (for students) to contemplate a zombie disease spread than (the spread) of some horrific (disease) like Ebola,” Schlozman said. “So one of the reasons they’ve used zombies is it’s less scary than the real thing, and now we have this curriculum where we learn about disease spread, spread through biting, airborne (toxins), imagining what if the city is this big, or that big.  Then we combine that with the biology.”

By the end of the program, students will have a better understanding of how math and science can help contain the spread of diseases, according to Schlozman and Lovett. The program is free for teachers and students who can download it online and use at home or in the classroom.