What is Hexacago Health Academy?

Hexacago Health Academy (HHA) is a game-based science and health program. HHA engages high school students in learning about and addressing major health issues through game play, interaction with STEM and health professionals, and mentoring. 

The Hexacago Board

In 2013, the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab created a game board that could be used to design a variety of games related to health and STEM issues. The board, Hexacago, symbolizes the city of Chicago and the different city regions overlaid with a grid of hexagons. Each game played on the board brings a systems-level perspective to health and wellness and helps players understand how personal, social, community, and policy factors affect help.

Hexacago Game Design Program

A three-week summer program for youth will provide in-depth exposure to public health and science careers while fostering game development using the Hexacago board. Year one (Summer 2015) was devoted to sexual and reproductive health games, while year two (Summer 2016) will focus on developing games about alcohol and drugs. The Hexacago Health Academy will ensure the summer programs meet educational goals. 

About Ci3 and GCC

The Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3) was founded in 2012 by Melissa Gilliam, MD, MPH, and is led by executive director Brandon Hill, PhD. Ci3’s Game Changer Chicago (GCC) is co-led by Patrick Jagoda, PhD (English and New Media Studies) and Dr. Gilliam. Located at the University of Chicago, Ci3 focuses on the health and well being of youth and takes a broad view of sexual and reproductive health, considering how biological, social, and systems-level factors influence individual health and behaviors. A critical part of Ci3’s success is rooted in The Game Changer Design Lab. The GCC lab designs serious games, interactive learning experiences and digital media arts projects with youth and for youth. Youth participate in game play and design to gain new literacies, health knowledge, scientific awareness, technological skills, and positive interactions with adults that can lead to empowerment and long-term well-being. Learn more about Ci3 here.

Health and Science Professionals

A critical part of HHA will be youth interacting with STEM science and health professionals. Our main objectives for these workshops will be to increase youth’s interest in science and health careers, as well as provide opportunities for students to learn about particular science or health topics. We believe helping youth build positive futures is at the center of improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Partnering with science and health professionals is a way we can provide rich information on health topics, as well as offer opportunities for students to ask questions about careers and make steps toward college readiness.

Our STEM, health, and science workshops expose students to traditional and non-traditional careers. Faculty and professionals from the University of Chicago and our community are incorporated into our program including: doctors, nurses, lawyers, epidemiologist, anthropologists, and basic scientists. Workshops help students learn about disciplines a wide-range of disciplines from sociology to health policy. Students will take what they learn in each workshop to design games.

Youth Initiated Mentoring (YIM)

To address the need for a lack of mentors for many youth, we are incorporating natural mentoring relationships through an approach called as Youth Initiated Mentoring (YIM). Through YIM, youth are trained to seek and build relationships with non-parental adults from their community (e.g., teachers, extended family). In one study, YIM has been shown to create mentoring relationships that last longer than formal mentoring relationships among youth who have dropped out of school. YIM has been developed by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Teacher Professional Development

Professional development sessions will be held for teachers in Chicago on game-based learning and the Hexacago Game Design Program. These sessions will serve as a learning opportunity for both high school teachers and the team of HHA. As we teach the benefits of using games to teach in the classroom, we will be learning about building a game curriculum to best fit the need of the educator.