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Sesame Workshop Partners with van Gogh Museum to Celebrate Sesamstraat Anniversary

By Graydon Gordian


From left to right: Ernie, Bert, Ienie Menie, Tommie, Elmo, Pino and Purk

On this date in 1853, Vincent Van Gogh was born in Zundert, Netherlands. In October 1888, Van Gogh painted his first version of Bedroom in Arles, an iconic work of post-impressionist art. In December, 2011, Bert, Ernie and Elmo made a couple of… “improvements” to Van Gogh’s masterpiece.

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of Sesamstraat, the Dutch version of Sesame Street, Sesame Workshop partnered with the Amsterdam-based Vincent van Gogh Museum, where Bedroom in Arles hangs, to recreate a version of the famous painting featuring Elmo, Bert, Ernie and the beloved Sesamstraat MuppetsTM  Ienie Mienie, Tommie, Purk and Pino. The special painting, which was unveiled by Sesamstraat actor Frank Groothof, was on display at the museum in December 2011.

To keep your good ear to the ground and learn more about Sesamstraat and all of our international co-productions, visit Sesame Workshop’s “around the world” page.

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March 29, 2012

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Pakistan’s Sim Sim Hamara Celebrates International Puppet Day

By Graydon Gordian


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The loveable puppets from Sim Sim Hamara, the Pakistani version of Sesame Street, recently took part in Pakistan’s 9th annual Folk Festival of Contemporary and Traditional Puppetry. On Wednesday, March 21, before an audience of 2500 children at the Rafi Peer Cultural Center in Lahore, Rani, a beloved Sim Sim Hamara’s puppet, helped inaugurate the festival by cutting a ribbon and releasing hundreds of colorful balloons into the sky. Then Rani and the rest of the Sim Sim Hamara gang spent the rest of International Puppet Day, which marks the first day of the festival, singing the show’s theme song and playing with all the children in attendance.

To learn more about Sim Sim Hamara, Sesame Workshop’s local partner Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, and the rest of the educational efforts in Pakistan, click here. Funding for Sim Sim Hamara is made possible through the support of USAID from the American people.

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Sesame Workshop Partners with Planet Water to Promote Clean Water in Asia

By Graydon Gordian


From the Planet Water PSA starring Elmo

2.6 billion people don’t have access to clean sanitation water and 72% of them live in Asia. Unsafe drinking water is a major cause of diarrhea, which is the second leading killer of children. Over 880 million people in the world lack access to safe drinking water and 55% of them live in Asia.

Water health and hygiene is one of the major issues facing young children in Asia. That’s why Sesame Workshop has teamed up with Planet Water to launch the Asia Water-for-Life project. Beginning in Indonesia and expanding into the Philippines, Vietnam and India over the next few months, this multimedia educational program, which includes a social media campaign and PSAs starring Elmo, teaches children about basic hygienic practices like hand washing and why failing to do so encourages the spread of germs. The beloved Sesame Street MuppetsTM will play a critical role in ensuring young Asian children learn these important lessons.

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March 06, 2012

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Happy Birthday to Plaza Sesamo’s Abelardo!

By Graydon Gordian


Another week, another birthday to celebrate here at Sesame Workshop! This week it’s the birthday of Abelardo, the big, curious green parrot who appears on Plaza Sesamo, the Latin American version of Sesame Street. Although Abelardo has been on the show since 1973, he’s only 4-years-old. He shares the optimism and happiness of his cousin Big Bird, but he’s also very interested in the world around him and loves to learn. He’s still learning how to read, but like kids his age he does know the letters of the alphabet. Despite his size, he’s very agile: Abelardo loves to dance, exercise and even roller skate. And did you know that, unlike most of the Sesame Street and Plaza Sesamo  MuppetsTM, Abelardo has a last name? His full name is Abelardo Montoya.

To learn more about Abelardo and all the ways Plaza Sesamo MuppetsTM are bringing the building blocks of education to millions of children across Latin America, click here.

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February 22, 2012

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Sesame Workshop, Early Years and the Future of Northern Irish Early Education

By Graydon Gordian


Since 2008 Sesame Tree, Sesame Workshop’s co-production in Northern Ireland, has been encouraging the children of Northern Ireland to appreciate both the similarities and differences that exist in their society and respect the feelings of other children, no matter their cultural background. We’re excited to announce that Early Years, a Sesame Tree outreach partner, has received a grant from Northern Ireland’s Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) that will allow the organization to use Sesame Tree-based materials to further our mutual educational goals.

Over the next month, Early Years will help build the infrastructure necessary to make the Sesame Tree program, materials and training resources sustainable in Northern Ireland. Early Years, the largest volunteer organization in Northern Ireland that works with children ages 0-12, will establish a Project Advisory Group made up of leaders from the worlds of education and culture, integrate Sesame Tree materials into its core training activities, and explore further ways the Sesame Tree curriculum can be integrated into cultural institutions and the organizations outreach efforts.

The DCAL is not the only organization that has recognized the impact of Sesame Tree on the lives of Northern Irish children. The show is also a finalist for the prestigious Prix Jeunesse International Prize 2012 in the category of fiction for children up to the age of 6. The award is given to a children’s show that “enables children to see, hear and express themselves and their culture, and that enhances an appreciation and awareness of other cultures.”

Sesame Workshop, Early Years and our Belfast-based production partner Sixteen South are excited that the show is being recognized for its positive influence on the lives of Northern Irish children and that it will be able to continue to encourage those children to celebrate their differences, rather than let them drive each other apart.

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February 17, 2012

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This Week in Sesame Street: Happy Anniversary Jalan Sesama

By Graydon Gordian


In this week’s edition of “This Week in Sesame Street,” we’re celebrating the 4 year anniversary of the debut episode of Jalan Sesama, Sesame Workshop’s co-production in Indonesia. On February 18, 2008 Tantan, Momon, Putrik and Jabrik – the Jalan Sesama MuppetsTM – began bringing the children of Indonesia laughter and encouraging them to love to learn.

Like every international co-production Sesame Workshop helps produce, Jalan Sesama takes into account the specific educational needs of children in Indonesia. That means not only teaching the building blocks of literacy and numeracy like we do in every international co-production. An appreciation of cultural diversity – Indonesia has over 300 native ethnicities spread across its more than 17,000 islands – and environmental awareness – Indonesia has the world’s second highest level of biodiversity – are also major parts of the Jalan Sesama curriculum.

Congratulations to all the hardworking people in Indonesia who help make Jalan Sesama a reality, especially our local partner Creative Indigo Production, and thanks to the American people and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), whose generous support makes the show possible.

For more information on Jalan Sesama and the work Sesame Workshop is going in Indonesia, click here.

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February 15, 2012

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The Joys and Challenges of Educating Children in Nigeria

By Graydon Gordian


From Sesame Square, the Nigerian version of Sesame Street

Ayobisi Osuntusa is executive director of education, research, and outreach for Sesame Workshop’s Nigerian co-production, Sesame Square, currently funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with additional support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Since 2008 she has been part of the team helping to teach Nigerian children the basics of literacy and numeracy as well as encourage greater appreciation of Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage. Recently we spoke with Ayobisi to learn more about the unique joys and challenges of working to educate the youth of this diverse African nation.

Sesame Workshop: Tell me a bit about the day-to-day operations in Nigeria. What does being executive director of education, research and outreach entail, specifically?

Ayobisi Osuntusa: We do a million things. Day-to-day, the focus right now is to develop our second set of outreach materials for health, numeracy, and science. We’re also looking for sponsors to advertise and essentially take some of the responsibility for helping us to broadcast nationwide and paying for that. We are looking for ways meet the demand for education reform in the North. Study shows that formal learning in the local languages at an early age can help boost the level of English literacy and understanding. We hope to be able to dub the television episodes (currently in Nigeria’s official language, English) into the local language to assist in this goal.

SW: As you suggest, Northern Nigeria is very different from the South. Tell me more about the cultural diversity of Nigeria and what your team does to ensure Sesame Square’s curriculum is effective no matter which region of the country the child lives in.

AO: Nigerians are all very different, our views, our cultures, so we have to be respectful of what we say and how we say it. Nigeria is divided into six geopolitical zones. We have about 500 languages in Nigeria, if not more.

To celebrate this diversity, we decided to introduce different live action films from all around Nigeria. We have live action films from the North, from the Southeast, from the Southwest. If you see a child dressed up in their traditional clothes, you will know from which part of the country they are from. In these films, children greeted members of their family and community in various languages and motions. This we felt was a great way to introduce the various greetings across Nigeria, so children could be exposed to their country’s rich cultural and linguistic diversity.

Ayobisi Osuntusa, third from the right, with some Nigerian children at a Sesame Workshop event in Nigeria.

AO:  There is a lot of room to improve education in Nigeria. Our program isn’t just about ABCs and 123s. We infuse it with thinking and reasoning skills; health, hygiene, and nutrition; child, family, and social relations; understanding, respect, and diversity; and finally arts and cultural heritage. Nigeria is blessed with a wonderful culture in which the community is concerned about each person and each child. We try to bring that back: respecting your elders, loving your community, and assisting the less fortunate. At the same time, we’re trying to teach the basics that children need to grow and succeed in school.

Another part of our project is about HIV/AIDS. It caused quite a stir, because people thought we were planning to teach small children about sex education. Eventually they realized that we are teaching them about loving everyone around you (reduce the stigma of HIV), that even if someone has HIV, you can love them, share food with them, and most importantly, play with them. We inform the children that their bodies belong to them, and if anyone does anything negative to their bodies, they have a right to say no and inform their parents/guardians.

We talk a bit about malaria; the number of children who die of malaria in Nigeria is large. We teach children to make sure there is no stagnant water in their compound, we encourage them to cover open water containers, and to sleep under a treated mosquito net.

Another interesting thing about the program is we try to promote girls’ education, by encouraging girls to go to school and stay there. Sesame Square features women who have succeeded to become important contributors to the society, like female pilots. We show a live action segment where a little girl goes to the airport and meets a female pilot. We also introduce a woman in the North who is a carpenter. We show and share situations where women have done very well for themselves in what is perceived as a “man’s” profession.

SW: Nigeria is a complex place, not only culturally, but also politically and economically. Tell me about that complexity and what the Sesame Square team does to overcome it.

AO: There seems to be a lot of problems in the Northern part of Nigeria right now with the bombings. It is a bit scary when you hear what’s going on, but like my husband who works in that part of the country, people still go about their day-to-day lives.

Another challenge we have is the fact that TVs are not in every household. We’re trying to find ways to around this. In most communities, you do find people with TVs, and as we’re working within the communities, we are identifying people who could share the use their TVs, whether it’s “come to our house and watch TV once a week,” or donate a television set.

Right now we have a little pilot project in Kano State in the North. We partnered with International Foundation for Education and Self Help (IFESH) and Intel. For this activity three pilot sites have been identified to receive our materials. Intel has donated laptops, and we’ve supplied Season 1 episodes of Sesame Square as well as a set of literacy activities on external hard drives for each laptop. IFESH has supplied reading materials and built a reading corner at the sites, and all three partners are conducting training on how to use their materials most effectively.

We are continuing to look for creative ways and additional platforms including radio to share the Sesame Square learning experience with children who otherwise might have little access to our show or other early education opportunities.

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February 14, 2012

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Sesame Workshop, Toonmax Media Bring Sesame Street Back to China

By Graydon Gordian


Toonmax Media President Yang Wen Yan, Sesame Workshop CEO Mel Ming, and Oscar the Grouch chat at a cocktail party to celebrate our partnership.

For Yang Wen Yan and Ye Chao, the respective president and vice president of Shanghai-based Toonmax Media, the return of Sesame Street to China is about more than a strategic partnership that they believe will help their company grow. It’s about reuniting with a show that has been a part of their lives for decades.

“About 20 years ago I was involved in the Production of Zhima Jie,” as Sesame Street was known in China, said Ms. Yang through a translator. “I was a line producer” when Sesame Workshop started working on a Chinese co-production in 1993.

For Mr. Ye, the connection goes back even further. “The first time I experienced Sesame Street was 1984, when I was visiting a studio in Germany that was producing the German co-production of Sesame Street,” he said, also through a translator. He would begin working on Zhima Jie in 1994.

However, Zhima Jie went off the air in 2001 and Ms. Yang and Mr. Ye moved on, eventually working together again as the top executives at Toonmax Media. Mr. Ye said he was pleasantly surprised when the opportunity to bring Sesame Street back to Chinese television came along in 2010.

“It’s just like the Sesame Street TV content, which brings lots of surprises,” said Mr. Ye. “I got surprised too.”

According to Ms. Yang, partnering with Sesame Workshop makes perfect sense for a company like Toonmax Media. High quality educational content is one of their two major focuses (the other is animation), and from their experience working with Sesame Workshop they know firsthand how much time, energy and educational research goes into producing our programs.

Just like every international co-production, Sesame Street’s Big Bird Looks at the World, which began airing in China in 2010, a tremendous amount of effort and care has gone into ensuring that the program is best suited for the educational needs of local children. In China, this means creating a curriculum for a slightly older audience – 4 to 6-year-olds instead of 2 to 4-year olds, which the American show is meant for – and making sure the series fosters children’s natural curiosity about nature and science and encourages hands-on exploration as a great way to learn.

While the curriculum for Sesame Street’s Big Bird Looks at the World may differ from the American version, Ms. Yang believes it is the universal charm of the Sesame Street MuppetsTM that makes the program a success.

“It’s really about the personality of the characters,” she said. “What is unique is the Muppets.”

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February 01, 2012

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Behind the Scenes: Sesame Workshop in Pakistan

By Graydon Gordian



In December of last year Pakistan’s PTV began broadcasting Sim Sim Hamara, one of Sesame Workshop’s newest international co-productions. During the lead up to the show’s inaugural broadcast, our Pakistani partner Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop made the above video to document all the wonderful work their team of Pakistani producers and performers are doing to enrich the lives of their country’s children.

Like Sesame Street, Sim Sim Hamara features lovable puppet friends that help children attain the building blocks of literacy and numeracy as well as encourage healthy eating habits and cultural understanding. Sim Sim Hamara might also have the catchiest theme song of any Sesame Workshop production. We apologize if it gets stuck in your head!

We’re so excited to be working with Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop to educate and entertain the children of Pakistan, and after watching the above video we think you will be too.

Generous support of Sim Sim Hamara is made possible by the American people and government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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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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