Participation in the Zombie Scholars Academy is a very safe experience for young people. Students are supervised in all of their activities by staff who are experienced with the equipment they are using. Additionally, all staff are required to undergo criminal background checks, receive special training to drive university vans, and receive basic lifesaver training (First Aid and CPR).
Despite an abundance of precaution, we will ask parents to sign an informed consent document and waiver pertaining to Academy activities. This will include a standard waiver from the United States Army/ROTC that covers activities conducted by our Military Science Department. These waivers acknowledge the inherent risks involved in physical activities of any kind. For this reason, we want to make sure participants are aware of the nature of these activities.
Dissections and Anatomy Lab
Part of learning about disease – whether real or imaginary – is to understand how a plague might spread. With zombies, we are required to think not only about the spread of disease, but how those diseases might impact organ systems – particularly the nervous system. Toward that end, students will dissect animal brains (typically sheep’s brains or cattle brains). Like dissections in the classroom, these materials are provided by a biological supplier and are preserved in safe materials.
Students will also have the opportunity, schedule permitting, to visit the anatomy/cadaver lab at AT Still University of Health Sciences where they will explore the anatomy of the human body using real human cadavers. Students will NOT be engaged in active dissections but will, under the guidance of a trained scientist, have the opportunity to examine the cadavers, handle organs, and explore organ systems.
Room Clearing / Airsoft Exercise
Truman State University is fortunate to own property that used to be part of a military installation in the small town of Sublette, Missouri, just north of Kirksville. This site still houses a radar station, but also contains abandoned housing for the military unit that once lived there. Army ROTC at Truman uses this facility to train students in the skill of room clearing. This optional exercise helps students think strategically. While few, if any, students would ever find themselves in an experience requiring them to engage in military activity, the exercise helps students think strategically and encourages conversations about how a building or camp site might be made safer in a dangerous situation.
In order to facilitate this experience, students use Airsoft rifles. Airsoft rifles are air rifles that use small plastic pellets as ammunition. Students wear protective headgear which protects the face and eyes. They are also encouraged to wear pants and long sleeve shirts in the unlikely event that a stray pellet bounces off a wall. However, students are NEVER shooting at one another, are taught the proper use of the safety function on the rifle, and are shooting at zombie targets or volunteer ROTC personnel only. All training and exercises are monitored by Truman Military Science/ROTC faculty and trained cadets who make sure that proper safety protocols are adhered to at all times.
For those who like a little adventure, an optional evening activity is the ROTC repelling tower. Under the watchful guidance of Military Science faculty, students learn how to repel using a variety of techniques. Students are safely harnessed, wear helmets, and have monitoring personnel both above and below the line.
ROTC Challenge Course
The ROTC Challenge Course uses a series of simple obstacles to encourage students to work as a team to solve problems and overcome challenges. Somewhat resembling the wooden play structures many of us encountered as children, the course includes complicated obstacles that make completing “missions” more challenging.
Gun Safety / Trap Shooting
If you watch zombie movies or TV shows, there’s a lot of mayhem. There’s a lot of shooting, arrows flying, and machetes severing decaying limbs. That’s obviously not appropriate for the kind of experience students will have here. Yet, we are very aware of the importance of students being cautioned about the safety implications of the things they are watching in the media. With the cooperation of the Department of Conservation, students will have the experience of shooting “clay pigeons” under controlled conditions to learn about proper safety techniques when and if they ever do handle a live weapon.