PlayPads: Mobile Educational Health Science Activities for Children in Hospitals

Project Audience

Ages 8–16

Subjects Addressed

Life science, biology, health, heart, cardiovascular system, type 2 diabetes, nutrition, and the human body

View Project Website https://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/do_science_now/science_apps_and_activities/monster_heart_medic
  • Project Description

    The University of California Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, in partnership with the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, created a new suite of mobile apps to foster healthy habits among families visiting children’s hospitals and the general public.

    The four apps: DIY Human Body, Monster Heart Medic, I Got This: An Interactive Story, and Space Chef, use different educational approaches, narratives, and gameplay styles to establish relevant connections to health topics for ’tweens and teens.

    DIY Human Body allows families and educators to investigate and learn about the human body at home, at school, or anywhere through step-by-step instructions for 13 easy to use, hands-on activities, plus related videos. Monster Heart Medic is an educational adventure game that uses animated monster stories, interactive simulators, arcade games, and virtual diagnostic tests to explore the cardiovascular system and how it’s affected by healthy living. I Got This is an interactive, first-person, educational story that follows a young teenage girl who discovers that she has type 2 diabetes, one of the fastest growing diseases in the United States. Space Chef is a fast-paced action game designed to provide a starting point for building healthy meals using simple, readily-available, and nutritious ingredients.

    All PlayPad apps are completely free. DIY Human Body, Monster Heart Medic, and I Got This are available in both English and Spanish.

  • Abstract

    The University of California Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS), in partnership with the Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland (CHRCO), proposes to design develop implement and evaluate a hospital-based educational program using pedagogically rich mobile learning experiences with age-appropriate K–12 health sciences content. LHS staff will combine educational technology curriculum and learning research expertise to create a new inquiry-based health-science program delivered through tablet computers or PlayPads.

    The interactive media digital stories and gaming on PlayPads will feature everyday concepts and important foundations in health education based on the science content and learning frameworks from successful science curricula created at LHS. Hospital patients and their families, visitors, staff, and volunteers will encounter PlayPads with finished waiting room exhibit media stations designed and constructed by Exploratorium Exhibit Services on teaching carts deployed by hospital educators and through individual check-out units. PlayPads content also will be available outside of the hospital setting through the Internet for extended use on personal mobile devices and computers.

    The mission of the PlayPads program is to increase exposure of the hospital-going public to topics directly relevant to healthy lives and families through mobile technology. PlayPads will be an inviting experience for youth framing interactions with driving questions and common misconceptions to inspire the curiosity of participants. Youth ages 8 to 16 will experience wide-ranging interactive programs including: games that show the hazards of smoking, simulations of blood flow through the heart, brain quizzes to hone memory function, or lively info-graphics about the nutritional shortcomings of junk food.

    Given the recent strides in the affordability of touch screen technology and the rapid adoption of mobile computing ecosystems, this is an unprecedented time to build a ubiquitous health educational program within a contextually relevant environment like a hospital. PlayPads will be a model for delivering health education content in a unique educational setting, leveraging the great strides in consumer mobile technology. By working with a strong local hospital partner that serves a highly diverse ethnic and socioeconomic population, LHS staff will ensure the portability of the program for future healthcare providers. With the extensive private and public networks of both LHS and CHRCO, PlayPads will potentially have a lasting impact on health education efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

  • Dissemination Strategies

    Four health-centered apps, as well as other topical apps in the DIY series, have been published on all popular app marketplaces, and featured in banners and category pages of the Apple App Store multiple times.

    Each app also has a permanent website on UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science page, and were promoted in the museum’s social media and at a partner children’s hospital.

  • Project Evaluation(s)

    Summative evaluation efforts showed youth participants both enjoyed and learned health content presented through the interactive gameplay of PlayPad apps.

    Through outreach online and at the Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland, there have been more than 1 million downloads of PlayPad apps since their release.

  • Resources for Sharing

    Additional health-related apps include the following.

    DIY Human Body
    Families, children and educators can investigate and learn about the human body at home, at school, or anywhere! The app provides 13 free, easy to use, hands-on activities which include material lists, step-by-step instructions, and detailed explanations—plus videos and much more. Materials are widely available and inexpensive.

    The free app is available in English and Spanish, and for iPhones and iPads with iOS 7 and above.


    I Got This

    Follow a young teenage girl as she discovers that she has type 2 diabetes, one of the fastest growing diseases in the US and around the world. Told in a real-world setting, the story focuses on the symptoms, remediation, and social aspects of the life-changing disease.

    This free app is available for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.


    Space Chef
    Nutrition is the focus of this is a fast-paced action game designed to provide the starting point needed to build healthy meals using simple, readily available, and nutritious ingredients. Space Chef requires quick thinking and even quicker fingers as you race against the clock to sort through an array of ingredients and construct healthy recipes. Along the way, you’ll unlock food factoids, discover new Space Chef robots, and have access to over 60 healthy recipes. Start your intergalactic grocery list today…those Sweet Potato Blueberry Squares won’t make themselves!

    This free app is available for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.


Project Photos