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P.A.S.S: Post Apocalyptic Survival Skills

The year is 2018, and a group of Tower Hill students has woken up after the recent zombie apocalypse. The students, with only their instincts and basic survival skills, must learn to survive in the face of this challenge.


Post Apocalyptic Survival Skills is just one of the many courses covered in Tower Term, a new learning initiative that allows students to focus on one specific topic from a wide range of interests, from international food to forensics.


“As a part of our strategic planning process, we looked at the curriculum of some of the best schools in the country,” Chief Innovation and Information Officer Anthony Pisapia said. “We saw a pattern that there was this set amount of time for a differentiated type of curriculum, and we got excited to try it here. The premise is that your future is going to look a little bit different when it comes to skill acquisition. When you’re in your careers and in your life, you're going to be tasked with learning a skill quickly and in a condensed amount of time. It’s not a typical structure in school, but it gives students a different opportunity to prepare for the future. ”


A few of the courses focus on nature and the relationship between humans and the environment we live in. Two separate courses, Backpacking in the Shenandoah and Girls off the Grid, take students into the wilderness for a few days, and Post Apocalyptic Survival Skills, or P.A.S.S., teaches students the skills necessary to survive without all of the amenities of everyday life.


Article By Reece Ratliff '21

“We wanted to create a program where we could put a whole bunch of different topics into it, and even if they were disparate, it would be fun to tie them all together,” faculty advisor John Bartlett said. “And then you add the post-apocalyptic element, just because it’s fun for teenagers to get into. It’s kind of a mix of boy scout skills and just general skills that would be relevant—everything from generating power to preserving foods and hunting, farming and fishing.”


On the first day of P.A.S.S., students learned to tie a variety of different knots and performed a simulation in which they spun a wheel to determine which group they would be a part of. After being selected, they had to compete with other groups on the skills they had learned.


“I learned that teamwork and communication are very important in a post-apocalyptic situation,” Richie Pierce ‘20 said. “Leadership and a good understanding of basic survival techniques also come in handy in different challenges. I discovered that assigning certain people to different tasks where they may have an advantage over the other teams was a very good tactic and one we put to use many times.”


After the simulation, students took a nature hike down to the Brandywine Creek. Students were given the task of identifying four different types of plants, including jewelweed, poison ivy, grapevine and sassafrass. After finding the plants, students learned about the uses and characteristics of each one.


The next day, P.A.S.S took a field trip to Coverdale Farms, where they learned about different methods of farming and food storage. By examining colonial farming tools and techniques, students generated ideas on how to produce and keep food without electricity and modern farming technology. The group explored different farm buildings, where they had the opportunity to shell corn, interact with dairy and meat cows, and see how people generated fresh water and kept it safe to drink. They also learned about a technique called rotational agriculture, in which animals are rotated through different plots of land to ensure the consistent health of each of the animals, as well as the pastures they graze on.


The experience at the farm taught students the importance of looking to the past to plan for the future, a theme that is relevant not only to surviving the apocalypse, but to the success of the school.

“I feel like we’ve grown up in an age where [everything we do] is related to electronics and technology,” Ariel Zhang ‘18 said. “It’s just nice to see where we’ve come from and how much we’ve improved, and how we can hold on to those roots to improve our future.”

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