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From the Street to the ‘Galli': A Story from Sesame Workshop India

By Sara Lederman


Sara Lederman works in the International Projects group on the Workshop’s initiatives in Israel and India. She began at Sesame 3 years ago as an intern while she was a student at Barnard College. Sara will spend next year conducting research in India on a Fulbright Scholarship.

The American Street overflows with giggling faces, neighbors congregating on city stoops, and friends playing jump rope. Sunny days and furry faces fill the Street, the symbolic artery through which so much history and learning flows.

The Indian Galli (alleyway) explodes with color and pulses with a rhythmic drumbeats. A caravan of diverse faces cheers as it zooms past smiling pink and blue storefronts and a technicolor lion kicking a soccer ball. The Galli is a familiar scene, a fantastical heaven tucked away in the dense city.

Both of these streets tell stories – stories of childhood, stories of community, and stories of culture. As an intern at Sesame Workshop and an anthropology student, I wanted to explore these stories in my senior thesis.

After working at Sesame Workshop in Global Education, Research & Outreach as an intern for a year and with the encouragement of a wise mentor, I decided to apply for funding to support a summer of original ethnographic research in India. Much to my mother’s chagrin, I traded in my ninth summer at camp in Wisconsin to explore the life of Muppets on the other side of the world.

When my rickshaw rolled up to the door of Sesame Workshop India in New Delhi, it hit me: I was experiencing, firsthand, what so many people back in the New York office described as “the longest street in the world.” Sesame Workshop India, the only wholly-owned subsidiary of Sesame Workshop in the world, is a lean machine comprised of a bold, fast, sharp team. Not only does this thirty-odd person office drive the production of Galli Galli Sim Sim (the Indian co-production of Sesame Street) radio and television shows that reach over 90% of television-owning families, but they also collaborate with national early childhood education experts to organize policy-oriented advocacy. They also just recently launched a franchise of after-schools and pre-schools called Sesame Schoolhouse, the first of their kind. And if that isn’t enough, this tiny team makes serious dents in school readiness and hygiene educational needs in India, a country where, if all the children broke off and made their own country, they would be the third largest in the world.

After a few days in the office and with the help of the supportive Sesame Workshop India team, I quickly identified a feasible research plan. In 2011 Sesame Workshop India was developing a Healthy Habits radio program intended to be distributed to a number of community radio stations. This particular series was designed in installments in a way that allowed flexibility for local adaptations. When I was in Delhi they were just beginning to roll out this initiative in a sizable migrant labor community on the periphery of Gurgaon, a major satellite city of Delhi. The community radio station, Gurgaon Ki Awaaz, took the material and tailored it to the needs of its audience, playing folk music from Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh –many of the migrant laborers’ home states – and addressing issues that were specific to the community’s needs. And, taking full advantage of radio as a flexible and communicative medium, the community radio station engaged callers in conversation surrounding education, water, employment, and safety.

As I conducted interviews with mothers, kids, teachers, and radio producers it became clear to me: everyone wants to consume high-quality media that speaks to them and, perhaps even more importantly, everyone wants to speak. The Sesame material served as an inspiration for the The Galli Galli Sim Sim community radio program, which provided a safe, educational and accessible space for some of the most marginalized families in the world.

That’s a Street of which I am proud to be a part.

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April 29, 2013

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Translating a Sneeze

By Kurt Swenson


Kurt Swenson is an associate producer for Sesame Workshop’s international co-productions.

Permit me to introduce you to a couple of our Irish friends. The big purple one you see on the left in the picture above is Potto Monster. He’s a jovial, caring, slightly neurotic inventor. The redhead with the big ears on the right is Hilda the Hare. She’s a rambunctious and energetic Irish Hare. And they’re the best friends who populate Sesame Tree, our adaptation of Sesame Street, produced for the children of Northern Ireland. Read More

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April 18, 2013

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Research on the Research: Meta-analyzing Sesame Workshop and Finding Good Things

By Marie-Louise Mares


Chamki from India's Galli Galli Sim Sim entertains and educates children on the streets of Delhi.

Marie-Louise Mares is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Sesame Street has always been unique in terms of how much research goes into designing each episode and evaluating how effective the program is. That research happens not only in the US, but also for the various versions of Sesame Street around the globe. Extraordinary amounts of work go on, conducting research studies in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, China, India, Tanzania, Mexico… Read More

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A Behind the Scenes look at Sesame Street in Afghanistan

By Graydon Gordian


Since November 2011, Baghch-E-Simsim, the Afghan version of Sesame Street, has brought laughter and important lessons about literacy, numeracy and cultural awareness to the children of Afghanistan. We’re excited to share with you this behind-the-scenes look at how one of our newest international co-productions gets made. To learn more about how Baghch-E-Simsim gets made, click here. To learn more about our work in Afghanistan, click here.

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March 28, 2013

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Sesame Workshop Launches Road Safety Campaign in Australia

By Graydon Gordian


Sesame Workshop is best known for our commitment to the mental and emotional development of children around the world. But we’re also committed to the physical safety of children. That’s why, as part of the U.N.’s Decade of Action for Road Safety, we’ve launched a new major road safety campaign in Australia.

Between 2006 and 2008, there were 6 deaths and 430 seriously injured pedestrians aged 0-14 in the province of Victoria alone. Driveway run-overs in the province resulted in the death of 14 children under the age of six and 73 serious injuries between January 2000 and September 2012.

Our campaign, spearheaded by Sesame Street’s Elmo and Grover, hopes to educate children, parents and teacher on simple road safety practices so in the future children’s lives can be saved. The campaign, created in partnership with Australian child safety advocates Kidsafe, the TAC, RACV and Holden, includes a storybook entitled Elmo Stays Safe: How Furry Little Monsters – and Children – Play Safely. The stories, games and activities in the book help encourage important safety tips like holding a parents hand while crossing the street, treating driveways like roads instead of safe play spaces and using correct restraints when traveling in a car. Additionally, a Community Service Announcement featuring Elmo and Grover is being broadcast on television and social media platforms and urges children and families to play in safe places away from driveways and roads.

To learn more about our efforts to encourage road safety, click here.

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January 24, 2013

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Afghan Version of Sesame Street Sparks Children’s Imagination

By Graydon Gordian


Afghan children in Herat province listen to Baghch-e-Simsim with their mothers.

While Sesame Workshop is best known for the educational television programs we produce both in the United States and around the world, we believe many forms of technology, both old and new, can be an effective way of bringing learning and laughter to children. That’s why an accompanying radio production has been a big part of the success of Baghch-e-Simsim, the Afghan version of Sesame Street. In Afghanistan many households don’t have television; the radio broadcast allows us to ensure that lessons about literacy, numeracy and cultural understanding reach as many children in the country as possible. Read More

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Sesamstrasse Celebrates 40th Anniversary

By Graydon Gordian


In January 1973 the children of Germany turned on their televisions and were introduced to the lovable Muppets of Sesamstrasse. 40 years later, we’re proud to celebrate the fact that Sesame Workshop’s longest continuously running co-production is still on the air. On Monday at a press conference in Hamburg, Germany, Sesame Workshop CEO Mel Ming and Lutz Marmor, CEO of German television and public radio broadcasters NDR and ARD, along with beloved Sesame Street and Sesamstrasse characters Bert, Ernie and Cookie Monster, celebrated the tremendous achievement.

Congratulations to the entire Sesamstrasse team for making young children in Germany laugh and learn for the last 40 years.

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Fostering a New Tradition of Indian Puppetry That Educates as it Entertains

By Graydon Gordian


This article originally appeared on the Sesame Workshop India site. VisitSesameWorkshopIndia.org to learn more about Galli Galli Sim Sim and all the wonderful work Sesame Workshop India does to improve the lives of and educate the children of India.

Sesame Workshop in India is committed to sustainable projects that enrich children’s lives long after our work is complete. We do this through partnerships, local development, and by investing in the furry heart of our programs—the puppeteers themselves.

Folk traditions of string puppets and shadow puppetry flourished in India long before our Galli Galli Sim Sim television show arrived in 2006. Yet the program’s Muppets represent something new: a sense of humor and emotional depth that connects powerfully with children and opens them to all types of learning. Read More

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October 02, 2012

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Opening Doors to a Bright Future for India’s Next Generation

By Sesame Workshop


This article originally appeared on the Sesame Workshop India site. Visit SesameWorkshopIndia.org to learn more about Galli Galli Sim Sim and all the wonderful work Sesame Workshop India does to improve the lives of and educate the children of India.

As India surges on the global stage, early education here has never been more important. With 165 million children under age 8, India’s preschools face a daunting task: creating a new generation of global citizens with creative minds and critical-thinking skills that can help the country continue to thrive and compete.

Indian families are eager to give their children the best advantages in a highly competitive world. But India’s current system struggles to deliver. While there are pockets of excellence among India’s preschools, major gaps exist in availability and quality. In many places, preschool lessons are a downward extension of the primary curriculum, relying on memorization and a didactic teaching style that aren’t appropriate for the youngest learners.

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September 25, 2012

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Sesame Joins U.N. Secretary General’s Every Woman Every Child Movement

By Graydon Gordian


U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Sesame Workshop CEO Melvin H. Ming and Takalani Sesame's Kami

Throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia there are numerous health risks that threaten women and children. Diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition and obesity extend across borders and impact millions. That’s why we are reaffirming and deepening our commitment to the United Nation Secretary General’s Every Woman Every Child movement. The movement aims to mobilize and intensify global efforts to improve the health of women and children around the world.

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