Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Zombie Apocalypse: What Do People Need to Survive?

U.S. Government

Jane Baber, Kristen Sublett

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. Government
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 100 minutes


Students will participate in a scenario where the government is in chaos. In small groups, they will determine what societies need to form new countries that would be sustainable. The characteristics of state and theories of governmental power will be introduced and applied to the new countries that are created.

Essential Question(s)

What do people need to survive? How do we form civilized societies (states)? How do we form governments?  



Students will watch a movie trailer, for the movie "World War Z," about the world thrown intochaos because of a zombie apocalypse. Students will participate in a scenario where they will determine the essential list of what citizens will need to build a new society.


Students will categorize the survival list with the characteristics of state.


Student groups will create a country using their list and the four characteristics of a state. Each group will create rules of government for their country based upon the structures of government.


Groups can receive feedback on their countries' chance of survival. Groups can apply their knowledge of the characteristics of state with a Card Sort.


A country presentation will serve as the evaluation. A rubric is provided.


  • Video clip of "World War Z" trailer (see link in lesson)

  • Teacher PowerPoint

  • Country checklist and rubric for student groups

  • Blank paper, chart paper, poster paper, colored pencils, markers, or folders, for country presentations

  • Student internet access

  • Student handout of the Characteristics of State

  • Student handout of the Structures of Government (half sheets)

  • Card sorts for student groups (optional)


Students will watch a movie trailer for the film "World War Z" about the world thrown into chaos because of a zombie apocalypse. To access this trailer, go to: Display power point slide 3. Begin a discussion after the video clip. Ask students:

  1. What can be seen and heard on the video first?

  2. How do you think the people in the video are feeling?

  3. What particular incidents or dialogue reveal aspects of the people or actions in the video?

  4. What should be the role of government be in this situation?

  5. Can you think of real situations where a government has been thrown into chaos?

Scenario: Show the scenario on power point slide 4. "You are the survivors of this zombie apocalypse. All the zombies have been destroyed but they did severe damage and destruction all over the world. Only small pockets of humans remain scattered around the world, and no political governments or leaders survived. These groups of humans must form new countries and governments to continue the human race.


Show power point five slide. Ask the class to brainstorm a list of elements that these groups of human will need to survive. Write the list on the board as students share an element that will help the survival of the group. Ideas MIGHT include: new leaders, shelter, food and water, medical supplies, weapons, a militia or gathering an army, an ideal location, a fence to keep out criminals, etc. List all ideas on the board from this brainstorming activity. If the list is longer than 10 to 12, ask the class to vote for the top five. Narrow the list to 10 to 12 items.

Once the list has been completed, pass out the student handout "What is a State?" Explain that as modern civilizations have continued to grow, this is how international law has come to define the identity of groups of people living in one location. This handout is also on power point slide six to display.

Ask students to write their name on this handout. Students are to categorize all the elements listed on the board with one of the four characteristics of state. Have students write on this handout and put each element in one of the four categories. An example is if the list on the board says "shelter", then students might put this in the category of people because people will have to build shelter or students may put it in "territory" because the shelters will have to be placed in a location that would sustain a population. Allow 10 minutes for this activity.


Assign students to groups of no more than 3 to 4. Tell students that they will create a new "state" or country and they will want the four characteristics of their country to be addressed. They will use the completed "What is a State?" handout as a guide.

Pass out the Structures of Government handout. Tell each new country group that their first decision will be to determine what type of government will rule this group of humans. Have students read the structures of government handout as you display power point slide 7. (Note: the handout has more information for students than the power point slide.)

Allow 5 to 7 minutes for groups to choose their government type using the structures of government handout as a reference. Ask student groups to discuss the pros and cons of the government they chose.

Display power point slide 8 and ask for groups to share out their government decision., discussing the pros and cons of their choice.

  1. What are the disadvantages of this type of government?

  2. What are the advantages of this type of government?

Pass out the "Create a Country Checklist and Rubric" and go over it with the class. The rubric is also displayed on power point slide 9. The checklist asks for certain country "artifacts" and written information to be prepared. The rubric explains the criteria or written descriptions for each of the four characteristics of state.

Allow time for the country groups to prepare their country artifacts and written information according to the rubric. You may wish to give each group chart tablet paper or a large piece of white construction paper for a mini-poster (see Evaluation choices).


All Extend activities are optional to this lesson.

Option 1: Once all groups have completed the country assignment, allow other groups to review their country portfolio or poster and "rate" their chances of survival. The country checklist/rubric could be used for this feedback. The rating groups should explain their reasoning for the rating. For example, a group might provide feedback such as: "Their country has a 50% chance of survival because the political system is more of a dictatorship, and if the power is corrupt, it will probably be overthrown;" or "This country has about a 70% chance of survival because their territory has quite a few lakes or water resources." Peer feedback should be given prior to final presentations as a way to improve survival chances.

Option 2: Once groups have completed the country presentation, student groups can apply their knowledge of the four characteristics of state through a card sort. In the card sort, there are four main cards that have the words, population, territory, government, and sovereignty. Students also receive cards that have statements about countries. Using the four main cards as headers, students are to sort the country statements that are best representative of one of the four characteristics of state. A teacher answer key is provided.


Each group will present their country's information to the class using the checklist and rubric as a guide. The teacher can determine the product of how information will be presented. Choices could be:

  1. Groups can create country folders (portfolios) with artifacts and written statements about their countries. Other groups can review these portfolios and provide feedback for chances of survival.

  2. Groups can create a PowerPoint or Google slides about the country for a presentation.

  3. Groups can present their country's information on chart tablet paper or white construction paper as a mini-poster to the class in a visual presentation

The country checklist/rubric can be used as a teacher rubric for grading.

As each group presents, they should create a persuasive oral presentation that not only helps their audience understand the design of their country, but appeals to their audience's reason and emotion in order to convince others that their country can succeed after the apocalypse