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Author Archives: Graydon Gordian

This Week in Sesame Street: Ernie’s Birthday

By Graydon Gordian


One of our favorite things here at Sesame Workshop is celebrating the birthdays of our beloved Sesame Street MuppetsTM. That’s why we’re so excited for this Saturday, January 28: It’s Ernie’s birthday!

Ernie and his best pal Bert are some of our oldest friends on Sesame Street. They’ve been living in the basement apartment of 123 Sesame Street since the show’s premiere in 1969.

Aside from providing us with some of the show’s funniest moments – who could forget the classic “banana” sketches – Ernie teaches us all a very important lesson: it’s possible for two people who don’t have much in common to be great friends. Ernie and Bert don’t have many similar interests: the excitable and mischievous Ernie enjoys playing tricks on Bert and taking baths with Rubber Duckie, while Bert, always the lovable curmudgeon, loves his pigeon Bernice and collecting paper clips and bottle caps. But despite those differences, they’re still best friends.

Given that Ernie’s been a part of the show for over 30 years, he’s been played by more than one performer. Originally Jim Henson did both the voice and puppeteering for Ernie. He last played Ernie in the 1989 episode, “Don’t Throw That Trash on the Ground.” Nowadays Ernie is performed by Steve Whitmire.

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Sesame Street Partners with 100Kin10 Movement to Promote STEM Education

By Graydon Gordian


Sesame Workshop is excited to announce that we are now officially part of the 100Kin10 movement, a collection of non-profits, government agencies, corporations and universities working to recruit and retain 100,000 new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teachers over the next ten years.

STEM education is already a major part of the Sesame Street curriculum. For two laughter-filled years we’ve incorporated STEM education into the show. STEM lessons are also integral to our online content, outreach initiatives and efforts to work with pre-school educators. For years our team of childhood development specialists has been refining our multi-platform STEM curriculum to make sure it’s not only fun but effective. That’s part of the reason why we are in a unique position to meet the challenges of teaching critical STEM knowledge and skills to children through the involvement of their teachers, parents and caregivers. Helping raise a generation of children that is excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics is a critical part of our mission.

That mission is why we partnered with the 100kin10 movement. Founded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Opportunity Equation and NewSchools Venture Fund, the movement has brought together dozens of organizations that are concerned about the future of STEM education in the United States. Every organization brings something unique to the table. Sesame Workshop is proud to bring our expertise in early childhood education and firmly held belief that it’s never too early to encourage kids to be excited about science and math.

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January 24, 2012

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Sisimpur Celebrates Anniversary of USAID with Ambassador to Bangladesh

By Graydon Gordian


It’s an exciting time for Sisimpur, Sesame Street’s co-production in Bangladesh. The cast and crew are looking forward to their seventh season this February, and earlier this month the Sisimpur MuppetsTM helped Dan W. Mozena, the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of USAID.

USAID has been working to improve the lives of the people of Bangladesh for all 40 years of the country’s existence, while Sesame Street and Sisimpur have been educating and engaging the children of Bangladesh since 2005. USAID and Sesame Street were fast friends. Our longstanding commitment to literacy and numeracy, cultural appreciation, nutrition and hygiene went hand in hand with the goals USAID has in Bangladesh and around the world.

That’s one of the reasons why Ambassador Mozena stopped by the show and visited with Ikri Mikri, Halum, Tuktuki and Shiku, four of Sisimpur’s beloved MuppetTM friends. Ambassador Mozena and his Sisimpur pals talked about all the wonderful work USAID does in Bangladesh, and counted to 50 in honor of the organization’s landmark anniversary.

For Sisimpur’s Bangladeshi production team, making the show (the opening of which is above) is both a joy and a challenge. The lessons Bangladeshi children learn about health, cultural awareness and literacy are critical to their development, but given the economic conditions in Bangladesh – many children don’t have access to electricity – the team has to do more than air the show on TV to ensure those lessons get learned. That’s why Sisimpur created a small fleet of rickshaws equipped with a TV and a power generator. The rickshaws can travel to areas the show doesn’t easily reach and play episodes for young children there. That’s just one of the many ways the people behind Sisimpur are using their imaginations to help make the lives of Bangladeshi children more fruitful and filled with laughter and learning.

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January 23, 2012

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Augmented Reality Technology Brings Sesame Street Characters to Life

By Graydon Gordian


Having been around for over 40 years, here at Sesame Workshop we understand that there are some time-tested ways children learn and play – there’s no need to reinvent the playset. But we believe that, as new technologies emerge, there are ways to enhance and support the tried and true ways children use their imagination to make sense of the world.

That’s why we have partnered with Qualcomm to explore how augmented reality technology can encourage learning and emotional growth in young children. Our CEO Mel Ming, Innovation Lab team member David Glauber and Grover demonstrated the Vuforia augmented reality platform at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 10th. By merely holding up a tablet to a traditional playset, children can interact with their favorite Sesame Street characters while developing socially, emotionally and cognitively.

Quite simply, when a child points a tablet or smart phone at these toys, the camera recognizes the objects and they come to life on screen. The camera on the tablet recognizes 3-D objects – in this instance specially designed versions of Bert and Ernie as well as a television, a bathtub, a racecar and other toys for Bert and Ernie to play with. (The characters are designed with special code-infused clothing so the camera can identify them. But developers at Sesame Street’s Innovation Lab are confident that, someday soon, the camera will be able to recognize any of the plush Sesame Street characters children own.) T-shirts, books and countless other items also have the potential to “come to life” when viewed through the app.

When Ernie is placed onto the playset, the camera recognizes the floor and triggers a response on screen, creating “walls” around him.  In the prototypical version of the technology presented at CES – the app is not yet available for purchase – Ernie says hello to the user and asks for another Sesame Street character to play with. But in future, more developed versions of the technology, Ernie and the other Sesame Street characters will have a wide range of reactions to any given scenario. This will allow for both a more guided form of pretend play, as well as child-directed experiences.

 

Both kinds of play – guided and child-directed – are important for fostering social confidence and a children’s ability to manage their own behavior and emotions. As children move toys in and out of the playset, they choose what kinds of social situations they would like to experiment with. Meanwhile, the app provides the structure necessary for them to learn more advanced forms of narrative construction, such as telling stories with a beginning, middle and end.

It was important to our Innovation Lab team that, in the words of team member Jason Milligan, the use of the augmented reality technology not be “gimmicky.” Milligan and the rest of the team wanted it to genuinely support and enhance the well-established ways children already play with their toys. So they reimagined the ways information can be input into a digital tool like a tablet.

For instance, when children play, they physically move their toys in and out of the playset. That’s why, instead of using a mouse or touch screen as an input device, the toys themselves are the input device. It’s also why all it takes to “activate” the toy’s digital rendering is to point the tablet at it. Directing the camera at the jukebox causes music to play; directing it at the TV turns it on, and causes whatever Sesame Street scene is playing to fill the tablet screen.

Because it comes in the form of an app, the technology is very malleable. As new characters are created and new storylines for them imagined, the software can be automatically updated like any other app. This is just the first generation of a new technology that has almost limitless possibilities.

The future is a fun place to play.

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This Week in Sesame Street: Big Bird’s First Visit to Hollywood Squares

By Graydon Gordian


Welcome to This Week in Sesame Street, a new feature in which we’ll revisit all the funny, touching and memorable moments Sesame Street has produced since it was first aired in 1969. This week we’re taking a look back at the first time Big Bird appeared on the classic game show Hollywood Squares.

Hollywood Squares has had countless famous guests over the years, but none quite like Big Bird. On January 19, 1976, Big Bird was a guest on the show for the first time. Plopped down next to Broadway star Carol Channing, best known for her work in Hello Dolly! and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Big Bird answered questions on birds (an expertise of his), Broadway musicals and even chimed in to help out Channing a time or two.

It would hardly be the last time Big Bird appeared on the now-defunct show: Between 1979 and 2001, Big Bird would appear on the show 14 times, most coming during the years in which Peter Marshall (whom Big Bird lovingly referred to as “Mr. Marshmallow”) was host. He also wasn’t the only Sesame Street character to appear on the show: Oscar the Grouch and Elmo have both been guests as well.

For video of Big Bird’s appearance, click here.

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Sesame Street Monsters Swing by Good Morning America to Bake Some Treats

By Graydon Gordian


Cookie Monster has been obsessing over his beloved cookies since 1969. But if you happened to try the ones he actually eats on set, I’m not sure you’d love them as much as he does. At least Good Morning America’s Josh Elliott didn’t after accidentally tasting one when Elmo and Cookie Monster stopped by Good Morning America on Thursday, January 5.

The Sesame Street Muppets were there last week to teach George Stephanopoulos and the rest of the GMA crew a few recipes from Sesame Street’s new cookbook B is for Baking. While everyone was trying some of Elmo’s red velvet cupcakes – made with healthy, hot pink beat puree instead of food coloring – Elliott came onto set and tried out a cookie. He was surprised to find that the cookies weren’t Bert’s lemony oat sugar cookies, Ernie’s All-American snickerdoodles, or any of the other tasty treats that can be found in B is for Baking. Instead it was the prop cookies that Cookie Monster devours during each episode of Sesame Street.

Although children watching at home think they’re real cookies, the performers have always used cookies that include no sugar and as little oil as possible. Real cookies are avoided because the oil could discolor or damage Cookie Monster’s fur.

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