Local high school to lock down May 18 for zombie-like contagion

Northwest Career & Technical Academy to simulate outbreak, involve whole school

LAS VEGAS – Northwest Career & Technical Academy (NWCTA), 8200 W. Tropical Parkway, will simulate a zombie-like outbreak Monday, May 18, as a fun and engaging day-long, school-wide problem-based learning (PBL) activity.

The cause of the lockdown: “ZAWKS,” a fictitious bacteria that causes zombie-like symptoms. (Named by combining “zombie” and “hawks,” the school’s mascot.)

According to event organizers, the PBL is the first of its magnitude nationwide.

Setting the stage: A prominent local resident experiences an earthquake while visiting the Nevada Test Site on Thursday, May 14. The resident visits NWCTA the next day, May 15. That evening, he falls ill while dining and it is suspected that he was exposed to ZAWKS when he was at the Nevada Test Site and has potentially introduced this highly infectious bacteria to the entire school. On Monday, May 18, the school is informed of this possible infection.

At that time, NWCTA goes into lockdown, and NWCTA’s program areas will find themselves with important jobs to do:

Medical: Quarantines part of the school and works to analyze how ZAWKS spreads.

Engineering and Design/Construction Management: Infrastructure has fallen apart as a result of the earthquake. Students from this program area will design new bridges and devise a system for filtering muddy water.

Mechanical Technology: To avoid spreading the ZAWKS infection, NWCTA’s air conditioning unit will need to be turned off. Students in this program area will study the school’s HVAC system and track how air, and thereby the contagion, travels through the campus buildings.

Media Communications: Immune to ZAWKS, these students will film the school’s response and provide live, school-wide broadcasts.

“They’ll see how what they’re learning applies,” said Jennifer Newman-Cornell, one of the event co-chairs as well as a Spanish teacher at NWCTA. “How would you handle this? … If Ebola came to Vegas, how would you handle it?”

The Teacher Education and Early Childhood programs will set their problem as if they were at the hotel where the prominent local resident fell ill and have to help maintain order during the quarantine, while theCulinary andHospitality studentswill address their situation aboard a cruise ship with a focus on three main issues: customer service (maintaining customer satisfaction/marketing), food (creating menus based on what is available), and customer relations (health and safety of guests).

General education teachers will also have a role to play. The goal of PBL is to integrate all subject areas into solving the real-world problem, so each general education teacher has been assigned to a program area team to help facilitate the PBL in that area.

There will also be a chosen group of students who will serve as NWCTA government officials for the day. NWCTA’s government teachers will help the selected students decide how the government should handle the situation – what information should be released and what shouldn’t, etc.

“We’re hoping they can get a real-life experience out of it and see that they’ll use what they’re learning in class,” said Susan McGivney, the event’s other co-chair as well as a math teacher at NWCTA.

“We’re teaching relevancy,” agreed David Philippi, NWCTA’s community partnership coordinator. “It will be just as much of a learning opportunity for the teachers as well, especially those new to problem-based learning,” he added.

Some students will be in charge of monitoring social media for the event including tweeting the day’s events on a live Twitter feed created especially for the event. Games will show students how fast an outbreak can spread. Some students will analyze outbreak movies to determine how realistic they are.

Currently, NWCTA is reaching out to members of the community who have relevant work experience and would be willing to participate throughout the day.

NWCTA will notify all parents, vendors and nearby residents about the project to avoid any local repeats of the 1938 “The War of the Worlds” radio broadcast confusion. Additionally, any students who may find the activity confusing or too real for comfort have been identified and given the option of an alternative activity for the day.

Located in Las Vegas, the Northwest Career and Technical Academy is a five-star school and a Magnet School of Distinction. It is in its eighth year of operation with students in 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th. It is a magnet school that serves a diverse student body. The student population is more than 1,800 and has a student/teacher ratio of 28/1.

For more information on Northwest Career and Technical Academy, visit nwctahawks.net.