Feeding brains: Regina schools use zombie apocalypse to engage students

In an effort to avoid zombies feeding on their brains, some students are feeding their own brains with knowledge.

MacNeill School is one of a few schools adding a zombie apocalypse theme to their subjects

Students at MacNeill School keep journals during their "Zombie Week" theme. (Peter Mills/CBC)

In an effort to avoid zombies feeding on their brains, some students are feeding their own brains with knowledge.

At least three Regina public schools have introduced a zombie apocalypse theme to several subjects.

MacNeill School is one of them. It has incorporated zombies into science, math, language arts, social studies, and even health.

Michael Schienbein, a Grade 6 teacher at MacNeill, is one of the teachers who put "a lot" of work into making sure his students were engaged, learning, and also having fun.

"They're interested in unique opportunities," Schienbein said. 

"We started our day normally with language arts, and all of a sudden I have an alarm go off on my phone and I said, 'Stop everything you're doing. A zombie apocalypse has started.' And we started playing some fake radio broadcasts."

Schienbein said the looks on the kids faces were incredible.

"To have them learn in ways they've never learned before and to kind of have them step back, it's an exciting time for us," he said. "But more importantly, it's an exciting time for the students. I think they enjoy coming to school when they get to do something like this."

But you don't take the teacher's word for it. Grade 6 student Brittney Fitzpatrick said, "You get to solve riddles and it's fun."

Charlie Taylor also agreed the program is "so fun" and advised other kids to "ask your teacher if you can do it."

How do zombies help kids learn?

MacNeill School in Regina has introduced a zombie apocalypse theme to several subjects. (Peter Mills/CBC)

In science, they learn things like creating water filters as a survival tactic. The took "green" water from a nearby pond and the students learned how to turn it into clear water.

In math, Grade 6 student Grayson Dakis said the school really set the stage. 

"We're working on doing like multiple equations like 13 plus four times eight," Dakis explained. "You have to use BEDMAS. So our principal came on the intercom and said, 'Enable BEDMAS.' So we need to go to the website and do a bunch of math questions to secure our zombie compound."

When asked why he liked the zombie-themed curriculum, Dakis said, "Because you get to do activities that aren't ordinary."

Fellow Grade 6 student Ishan Sharma said he enjoyed an activity where the students had to find "the antidote" for the zombie infection.

"We had like these capsule things and you put them in one of these three liquid items," Sharma said. "One was syrup and it took one minute and ten seconds to dissolve the capsule. And then toothpaste took one minute, 13 seconds. Dish soap took one minute and 47 seconds. And the canola oil took two minutes and 32 seconds."

So according to Sharma's experiment, canola oil would work the best to slow down zombies.

'Authentic engagement'

MacNeill School in Regina is finding news ways to achieve "authentic engagement." (Peter Mills/CBC)

Fun and learning don't always go together. For many parents, text books and taking notes might seem like a better way to learn about a zombie apocalypse.

Schienbein said it's all about getting kids "happy to be in the room" each day they come to school. 

"A lot of the times we think about school, we think about text books and notebooks," he said. "Those are important parts of school, and we use those daily."

However, he said, "if kids aren't engaged, they're not going to be as motivated to learn."

Sherri Beattie, the principal at MacNeill School, said the Public School Board wanted their schools to focus on "authentic engagement." For her, zombies are doing exactly that.

"We have students that come ready to learn and you sit them down and you tell them what to do and they pick it up immediately," Beattie said. "But teaching has changed because not everyone is ready to do that. 

"So how do we meet the diverse needs in our classroom? That's how you go about doing it."

Regina's Douglas Park and Seven Stones schools also have zombie programs of their own. And while the program will come to an end soon, Beattie said you can expect a new but similarly engaging idea in the future at MacNeill.

About the Author

Peter Mills

Peter Mills is an Associate Producer with the Morning Edition on CBC Radio One in Saskatchewan. Follow him on Twitter @TweeterMillsCBC. Do you have a story idea? Email


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