Dressed in a 19th-century soldier’s coat, Milan Marvelous stood in Laurel Hill Cemetery and advised a group of enterprising youngsters on how to find a cure for a zombie disease overtaking Philadelphia.
“Why don’t we cure people instead of killing them?” Marvelous’ character, an undead zombie fighter, asked the kids, who were participating in a “zombie apocalypse”-themed treasure hunt around the city. “Having been dead for 112 years, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to get things just right!”
In the treasure hunt, which was held on May 11, Marvelous’ character then gave kids a list of ingredients they had to track down. It was one of many stops on a journey that took kids from Fencing Academy of Philly to Chinatown to the Mutter Museum to Eastern State Penitentiary.
Marvelous, of West Philadelphia, said the assignment was designed to educate kids on how to transport themselves around the city using SEPTA and other modes of transit.
“One of the challenges of homeschooling kids is to try and give them the experiences that kids going to school are always receiving,” Marvelous said. “My wife and I wanted to give the teens an opportunity to learn how to better navigate SEPTA.”
Seventeen teens participated in the roughly seven-hour adventure, with eight adults positioned at various destinations to give kids clues as to their next destination.
They relied in part on the SEPTA trip planner app, Marvelous said, which kids used to figure out which bus to take and how to transfer between various lines.
“We try to find find ways to make them more independent,” Marvelous said. “It increases the resources they have.”
Robert Kunzman, an Indiana University education professor who specializes in homeschooling, said the Amazing Race style event is a great way to expand kids’ borders.
“Education certainly doesn’t always need to take place in a school building, and I can think of many valuable — and engaging — lessons that could be learned from such an adventure,” Kunzman said.
Kids attending traditional schools often learn how to use public transit as part of their regular schedules. But Kunzman said that learning about mundane things in a creative way can be uniquely beneficial.
“Rather than viewing the need to learn how to use public transit as a disadvantage of homeschooling, I would be inclined to see the creative way that these homeschoolers learned those skills as an indication that they took advantage of the flexibility that homeschooling can provide — if the learning experience was engaging and intellectually challenging, then good for them,” he said.
The zombie theme of this “Amazing Race”-inspired event was a way “to justify the destinations and get the kids excited for their next stop,” Marvelous said.
But the overall goal of the “Amazing Race” style quest was to give kids that feeling he described as, “Oh man, I thought this kind of thing only happened in books! This is real life!”
The amazing race to stop zombies
Kids began their journey at City Hall, where they were first told about the zombie plague.
Their journey included heading to the Mutter Museum, where a disgruntled nurse had released the zombie virus.
From there, they went on to the Fencing Academy, where they were taught to defeat zombies by stabbing them in the heart — and then to Laurel Hill Cemetery, where an ancient zombie fighter taught them how to create the cure to the zombie disease; and then onto D’Angelo’s to acquire the special ingredient — chocolate brains.