Patrick Jagoda

Hexacago Health Academy

board game curriculum


  • Directed with: Melissa Gilliam
  • Created with: Game Changer Chicago Design Lab and the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3)
  • Curriculum Facilitators: Megan Macklin, Peter McDonald, and Keith Wilson
  • Support: National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA)

The Hexacago Health Academy was a science and health intervention that took the form of a game-based curriculum. Two sets of workshop brought teams of high school students to the University of Chicago campus for three and four weeks, respectively, to learn about key health issues through a combination of game play, game design, health research, and interactions with STEM and health professionals and adult mentors. The core of the curriculum focused on Hexacago: a game board that the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab created in 2013. This board represents a map of the city of Chicago with an overlay of hexagons. It encourages the development of games that depend on a socio-ecological model that grapples with health promotion at individual, interpersonal, community, and policy levels.

The 2015 workshop focused on sexual and reproductive health. This three-week program yielded four health-oriented board game prototypes, co-created with participating youth and adult game designers. These games focused on issues of unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, childhood obesity, and achievement of educational goals. This workshop represents the first step of a five-year study about health education and games.

The 2016 workshop focused on health issues related to alcohol and drugs. This four-week program yielded three board game prototypes. These games focused on community policing, marijuana use, and the effects of drugs and alcohol on the everyday life of adolescents. 

A detailed overview of the summer program.

An announcement about the NIH grant award that supported Hexacago Health Academy.

A MacArthur Foundation story about Hexacago Health Academy.