In August the University of Chicago’s Game Changer Chicago Design Lab (GCC) wrapped up its second year of the Hexacago Health Academy (HHA) Summer Program.
Hexacago Health Academy is a four-week, game-based science and health summer program for Chicago teens. Combining game-play, mentoring, and STEM activities, the program engages high school students in science and health in an informal and innovative way.
GCC develops serious games, interactive learning experiences, and digital media art with and for youth. GCC draws from social science and clinical research to address issues relating to sexuality, health, social justice, and youth development.
HHA uses GCC’s Hexacago© board game created in 2014. The Hexacago© board, depicts the city of Chicago with an overlay of hexagons. Students use the board to design games and think critically about public health problems in the city of Chicago. They learn about positive health behaviors and also about the systems and policies that support or impede health.
HHA is a program of the National Institutes of Health’s Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) Program, which funds innovative K-12 STEM and informal science education projects.
This year the program was comprised of about 20 students ages 14–18, mostly from the Chicago’s South Side.
During the 4-week program, students participated in discussions and workshops focusing on game-design, career development, youth-initiated mentoring, and learned about pregnancy, STI/HIV prevention, tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.
Each week a STEM or health professional led a career development workshop describing their day-to-day duties and the educational pathway to their respective fields.
This year’s program was co-sponsored by the Institute for Translational Medicine and the Center for College Access and Success’s GEAR UP Program. The program was strengthened by a host of University of Chicago student interns. Students has the opportunity to engage with south side community residents, organizations and leaders.
On the final day of the program, the youth hosted their friends, families and the University community at the HHA Project Presentation. Everyone played the beautiful games the youth created during the HHA program.