"How to Use a Condom," a video by students at Woodlawn Secondary School. See more videos below the story.


At Woodlawn Secondary School, a South Side charter school operated by the University of Chicago, students are striving to make embarrassing, boring, and often ineffective high-school sex-ed classes a thing of the past. With guidance from Dr. Melissa Gilliam and other University of Chicago doctors and medical students, the teens have crafted a trio of three-minute films that provide classmates with a less awkward and more straightforward approach to the facts of life.

In one video, Passion Jones (yes, that’s her real name), a junior, uses a banana to demonstrate the how-to of condom use while also providing useful tips, such as being sure to check for holes and expiration dates. In a second video, students visit the local spots where condoms are available (a gas station, a drugstore, and the Woodlawn Adult Health Center, where they are free). Don’t worry about embarrassment, counsels Tevin Jones (no relation to Passion), another junior and the videographer of the short films, who compares shopping for condoms to shopping for shoes. “You’ve got to try on many different pairs of shoes to find out what’s best for you,” he advises.

Finally, in a new video, Tevin, looking like a newscaster in a button-down shirt and tie, responds to the results of a survey conducted among Woodlawn students. “No man has a penis too large for a condom,” he reports, dispelling a widespread misconception among the surveyed teens that condoms were insufficiently big.

With memories of sex-ed classes that relied on “boring workshops” and “disgusting pictures” of sexually transmitted diseases—a strategy he characterizes as “you shouldn’t do this because you can get this”—Jones finds this new approach refreshing. And it could soon go nationwide. Working with the California-based Internet Sexuality Information Services (known as Isis-Inc), Gilliam is studying ways to use digital media to help teens around the country make good decisions about their health, their relationships, and their sexual behavior.