Learning serious stuff, such as how to prevent serious illness and even epidemics through vaccination, doesn’t have to be so, well, serious. Fortunately for all of us – children, adults, even math nerds – some dedicated people have come up with fun and sometimes very challenging games that challenge our knowledge, teach us some nifty epidemic-prevention thinking and bring us the facts about vaccines.
We’ve been having some fun with them in order to bring you a few of our favorite vaccine-education games. It was a tough job to play this much, but somebody had to do it, and we stepped up to the challenge.
Super Duper Antibodies: This colorful, very simple online video game is geared to young children. They get to zap an invading blue flu virus with pink antibodies. It doesn’t take much strategy or coordination, just the ability to click and move the computer mouse. If the player can zap all the virus before more come on the scene, the player wins. Eventually, it becomes clear that the sooner they act, the more effective their super-super antibodies are at preventing the spread of illness.
The game is part of PBS’s “Sid the Science Kid” project that teaches children about many aspects of science and scientific discovery. The vaccine chapter of the project also includes coloring and activity pages.
Freddie Fox Gets his Chickenpox Shots: These printable activity pages offered on the website of Immunize North Carolina are geared to the slightly older child, ages 7 to 10. They include a word hunt and two mazes.
How Vaccines Work: A far more complicated online activity, geared more toward teenagers or adults. A slide show portrays the human immune system’s response to vaccination, step by step. At the end, players get to test their knowledge by showing that they can put all the steps into sequence themselves. It’s a real memory challenge.
The game is offered by The History of Vaccines, an educational project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
The Scientific Method: This game also is produced by The History of Vaccines but involves a lot more thinking skills than the previous activity.
“You are the Director of Public Health for a medium-sized city,” the first panel of the game says. “This week several accounts of serious illnesses have reached your office. Three deaths have already been reported.”
Your job: To identify the cause of the illnesses before this becomes a full-scale epidemic. A friendly virtual epidemiologist can be asked for advice, but it’s the player’s job to set priorities, such as which outbreaks should be examined first, which sources of information should be consulted for clues and so forth.
Pioneer Breakthroughs: One more by those helpful people at The History of Vaccines, and this one will feel like a vacation after you’ve worked your way through the last two.
All you have to do is match the vaccine pioneers with the diseases they helped to conquer through vaccination.
Just the Vax: Ah, a game for those who are in the know about vaccines! This is an online trivia game, and while some of the questions are relatively simple to answer for those who are fairly well informed, others will test you on the real details of the subject.
The game is offered by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Vaccination Game: This is a simple name for a complicated math exercise, intended as a classroom activity but a good challenge for anyone who wants to try it.
“You do not need to vaccinate a whole population in order to control a (future) outbreak of disease,” the instructions inform players, “but that if a certain proportion of the population has been vaccinated, this will offer herd immunity to the remaining population. In a large population, with people immune to catching the disease (due to vaccination), the chains of transmission will be broken, and others susceptible individuals in the community will not become infected.”
The players’ goal is to figure out a vaccination strategy, based on how contagious a given disease is. It’s played with a chess or checkers board, and counters in two different colors. The game is one of many mathematics activities developed by NRICH, a project of the faculty at the University of Cambridge.
Vax!: This is a fun and absorbing game developed by a graduate student in biology at Penn State University.
“Players are tasked to prepare for an outbreak by vaccinating a network that resembles human social networks,” the background information says. “After distributing vaccines, an infectious outbreak begins to spread and the player is tasked to quell the epidemic by quarantining individuals at risk of becoming infected.”
The idea is to identify the links in networks of human connection in order to most effectively prevent a disease from spreading. There are several levels to play and it can get quite complicated to figure out how to best contain the illness.
Ready? Let’s get set to up our knowledge and sharpen our thinking by having fun.
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