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September 08, 2014

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Sesame Workshop Appoints Jeffrey Dunn as President and CEO

By Sesame Workshop


Vincent A. Mai, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sesame Workshop, announced today the appointment of Jeffrey D. Dunn as President and Chief Executive Officer of Sesame Workshop, effective September 29, 2014. Mr. Dunn, formerly the President and CEO of HiT Entertainment, will succeed Mel Ming who announced his retirement earlier this year. Mr. Dunn will lead the nonprofit educational organization in its mission to use the educational power of media to help all children reach their highest potential.

Mr. Dunn currently serves as a 2014 Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow at Harvard University with a focus on media and education. Previously, he served as President and CEO of HiT Entertainment from 2008 until 2012. HiT was one of the world’s leading independent children’s entertainment producers airing its content in more than 160 countries around the world, primarily on public broadcasters. HiT’s signature property was Thomas & Friends, which was the world’s leading boys’ preschool brand. Before joining HiT, Dunn served as Group Chief Operating Officer of the Nickelodeon Networks group and the President of Nickelodeon Film and Enterprises, where, among other things, he built Nickelodeon’s international networks business and oversaw the growth of Blue’s Clues, SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer into three of the world’s largest licensed property brands.

“Jeff Dunn has an outstanding track record in the world of children’s media,” said Vincent Mai. “At HiT Entertainment, Jeff led the company’s resurgence and successful turn-around before it was sold to Mattel in 2012. And under his leadership, Nickelodeon became one of the industry’s most global networks, largest licensing businesses, as well as the world’s largest digital media business for kids. His current experience at Harvard is a testament to his commitment to the educational power of media and we look forward to the Workshop thriving under his creative, inspired leadership.”

Jeff Dunn said, “Sesame Workshop really invented the business of kids television as we know it today and all of us in the kids media industry recognize the debt we owe the Workshop for leading the way. I am truly humbled by this opportunity to join the Workshop and help to steer its future and educational mission.”

Jeff Dunn recently served on the board of American Greetings and Sprout, the award-winning preschool children’s TV network. He graduated with honors from Harvard College, and earned his MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street which reaches 156 million children across more than 150 countries. The Workshop’s mission is to use the educational power of media to help all children reach their highest potential. Delivered through a variety of platforms, including television programs, digital experiences, books and community engagement, its research-based programs are tailored to the needs of the communities and countries they serve, helping children everywhere grow smarter, stronger and kinder.

Photo by Gil Vaknin

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July 30, 2014

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Sesame Street Explores National Parks

By Monique VanLandingham


Editor’s note: This post is by Monique VanLandingham, Interpretation and Education, National Park Service.
 

This week, Elmo discussed the great outdoors with Katie Couric. Their conversation happened at a perfect  time because summer is a great time to explore the outdoors..  There are puddles to splash in, baby animals to discover, and the wonders of nature to explore.  Summer’s also a perfect time to enjoy our country’s national parks, local parks, and even the adventures that can be found in your own backyard. The National Park Service (NPS) and the National Park Foundation (NPF), its nonprofit partner, have teamed up with Sesame Street to inspire kids to do just that.

Together, NPS, NPF, and Sesame Workshop created a multimedia experience for children, educators and families to help kids learn more about science and nature and encourage them to get outdoors. In Sesame Street Explores National Parksreal life park rangers interact with beloved Sesame Street characters Elmo and Murray as they introduce children to the natural world of habitats, animal families, and the changing of the seasons.

Research shows that many children are now lacking opportunities for positive experiences with nature, and that this lack of interaction with their natural surroundings can lead to troubling results such as attention difficulties, a diminished use of the senses, and a lack of physical activity that can contribute to higher rates of childhood obesity.

 Sesame Street Explores National Parks helps reverse those trends and supports learning about the natural world and science. Sesame Street Explores National Parks comprises:

* A series of six short videos, featuring  awe-inspiring footage of Grand Canyon National Park and Gateway National Recreation Area (NYC), in which Murray Monster, Elmo and a park ranger highlight scientific inquiry skills through science and nature topics relevant to both the national parks (Grand Canyon and Gateway) and local park or backyard settings.

* Printables, including a nature journal, a scavenger hunt, nature badge, coloring page, and a vocabulary sheet; that parents and caregivers can print out and enjoy with their preschoolers

* View-and-do activities for parents, caregivers and educators (including park rangers) that extend the learning experience of each of the videos by offering concrete, developmentally appropriate ways to help young children to learn more about the topics introduced by the videos;

Parents love that the Sesame Street Explores National Parks materials are age-appropriate and family friendly.  Parents are also delighted that the activities give them opportunities to engage as a family and interact with their little ones. There’s nothing quite like watching a four-year-old singing along with the lively song, or pretending to be a park ranger.  But best of all, Sesame Street Explores National Parks is just plain fun for everyone!

By visiting the National Park Service website, www.nps.gov, families can find out what is happening in nearby parks.  Each park hosts a calendar of events detailing – mostly FREE!! – activities for visitors of all ages.  Get out there! Get active! And enjoy all that your national parks offer.

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July 15, 2014

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Kindergartners’ Skills at School Entry Report and Sesame Street Framework for School Readiness

By Sesame Workshop


Preparing children for school has always been a part of what we do at Sesame Workshop. To continue to do this and understand the needs of today’s children, our research team commissioned an analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to ascertain the status of preschoolers school readiness and their abilities as they enter kindergarten. The findings are being released today in the Kindergartners’ Skills at School Entry report. The report shows wide differences in school readiness persist with 44% of children entering school with one or more risk factors that impact their success in school. The analysis examined four risk factors that have been associated with children’s development and school achievement: single parent households, mothers with less than a high school education, households with incomes below the federal poverty line and non-English speaking households. High-risk children (those with all four risk factors) were found to be nearly a year behind their peers with no risk factors in their reading and math abilities.

In light of these findings, we are sharing our Sesame Street Educational Framework for School Readiness. The Framework is a guide that outlines the developmental progressions of preschoolers within the 20 core school readiness skills. Up until now, it has been an internal guide used to complement the whole child curriculum that is the basis of all Sesame Street content that helps children grow smarter, stronger and kinder.  We are releasing this document in the hopes that fellow content developers will use it to better understand the developmental needs of preschoolers and create educational content that will help close the school readiness gap.

Find the Kindergartners’ Skills at School Entry report here and check out the Sesame Street Educational Framework for School Readiness.

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June 23, 2014

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Sesame Street Wins Six Emmys!

By Dan Lewis


The Daytime Emmy awards were presented over the weekend and we are elated to share that Sesame Street took top honors in 6 categories:

* Outstanding Pre-school Series
* Outstanding Writing in a Children’s Series
* Outstanding Directing in a Children’s Series
* Outstanding Achievement in Multiple Camera Editing
* Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing – Live Action
* Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Live Action

These new honors bring the show to a new total of an astounding 159 Emmy awards. We could not be more proud of our incredible team – from the cast, to the producers, directors, editors, musicians and everyone behind the scenes who make Sesame the gold standard that it continues to be, and which the academy continues to recognize as the outstanding preschool series for five years running.

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June 10, 2014

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With Food, Hope, and Cookie Monster

By Sesame Workshop


This post is by Enid A. Borden, Founder, President and CEO of the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger.

By the time we arrived to set up for our special event on May 17, families were already lined up and waiting in the parking lot. My foundation, the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH), was hosting a healthy eating event for the community of McDowell County, WV, and the families were waiting for the moment when they would finally see the star they knew about but never dreamed they would actually meet – Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.

Our Healthy Food, Healthy Fun, Healthy Future event, which marked the conclusion of a year-long, intergenerational nutrition education project underwritten by a grant from the Walmart Foundation, encouraged all the people of McDowell County to celebrate and practice the healthy lifestyle habits we had been teaching to many of them. After enjoying a free, nutritious lunch, families visited our special farmers market where they could learn how they could easily incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their meals. Each family left the market with a complimentary bag of produce consisting of fresh kale, tomatoes, corn on the cob, apples, zucchini and dried pinto beans.

As the adults visited the market, a local radio station that was on site for the event kept children dancing, while they waited in line for their turn to jump in the bounce house and race each other around an inflatable racetrack on oversized tricycles.  There were many things to see and do, but nothing so engaged and delighted old and young alike as meeting Cookie Monster. When the children saw Cookie, they ran to him, hugged him tightly and stayed by his side.  It was clear that they craved affection, and Cookie was a safe one to approach first. Before long, one little girl ran over to me and took a flying leap into my arms too. These children deserve more than they get most days. That Saturday was different.

Make no mistake about it. Most of the parents and grandparents are doing their best to provide for the children, but there isn’t much in the way of opportunities and resources to make that possible in this isolated County. McDowell County, WV, is the poorest in West Virginia and one of the poorest counties in the nation. In McDowell County, nearly three out of five children live in a home with no biological parent present. This leaves many grandparents with the daunting task of raising their grandchildren with limited resources and without adequate access to affordable, nutritious food. NFESH-commissioned research shows that grandparents living in a home with a grandchild are two times more likely to face the threat of hunger than their peers who do not reside in a home with a grandchild. That, combined with widespread poverty, unemployment, a prevalence of illegal drugs and prescription drug abuse, the shortest life expectancies in the nation, and geographic isolation, leave the wonderful people of McDowell with little time and room for fun in their lives.

Our day of celebration of healthy eating brought them that, but it also delivered much more. It gave them hope and showed them how simple it could be to begin moving, one step and bite at a time, to a healthier life. Children and adults were introduced to healthy foods they had never eaten before and thanks to our friends at Sesame Workshop the children were able to spend memorable time with Cookie Monster, not just a favorite character but a hero and a friend. His long journey to meet them symbolized what the whole event was designed to show them —   that people in and outside of the community cared about them, their happiness and their future.

At NFESH we are dedicated to ending senior hunger, and we know that the best way to end senior hunger is to prevent it in the first place. By educating children about balanced meals and how to read nutrition labels and unit pricing, we are giving them the tools and knowledge they need to make healthy and budget-friendly purchasing decisions when they get older. Sesame Street’s multimedia outreach initiative Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget was given to every family at the event. Parents and children were extremely grateful to receive this kit designed to help support families who have children between the ages of two and eight, cope with uncertain or limited access to affordable and nutritious food. The grandparents were thankful for the educational materials, and the children were excited to have a book that showed Cookie Monster’s friends. The families also received Sesame Street’s Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me kit.

With every trip to McDowell, we leave a little piece of our hearts behind. We have seen the poverty and despair, but we have also seen the impact our projects have on the people, and we are committed to helping the people of the County. This would not be possible without the incredible support we’ve received from our partners. Sesame Workshop has provided the families of McDowell County with more than just tools to help the children learn to lead healthier lives; the families have been given a memory they will carry with them for years. And that’s a reason to smile.

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May 29, 2014

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Sesame Workshop’s 12th Annual Gala Honoring Joan Ganz Cooney

By Sesame Workshop


Last night, Sesame Workshop honored Joan Ganz Cooney, co-creator of Sesame Street and co-founder of Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), for her lifelong efforts to improve the lives of children around the world at its 12th annual benefit gala. Sesame Street’s Elmo, Grover, Cookie Monster, Abby and Big Bird hosted the event at Cipriani 42nd Street which included special appearances by Diane Sawyer and Cheryl Henson, and video tributes from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama.  The evening concluded with a musical performance by Grammy Award-winning artist Michael Bublé, performing “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “Young at Heart,” and the Sesame Street classic “Sing” with the Muppets.

We are honored to recognize Mrs. Cooney for her contribution as the co-creator of Sesame Street, the award-winning children’s educational TV show. With the belief that television could help children learn, Mrs. Cooney and her colleagues launched a program that revolutionized television, dramatically impacted pre-school education and changed millions of lives for the better. Four decades later, her legacy continues. Today, Sesame Workshop has become the single largest informal educator of young children around the world.  Using the power of media, Sesame Street engages children in 150 countries by teaching literacy and numeracy, as well as crucial lessons about health, emotional well-being and respect and understanding.

Mrs. Cooney began her career as a journalist in her hometown of Phoenix before moving to New York City to become a public affairs producer for WNDT (now WNET). While there, she led a study for the Carnegie Corporation titled, “The Potential Uses of Television in Preschool Education.” That groundbreaking research paved the way for the debut of Sesame Street in 1969.

Forty-five years later, Mrs. Cooney’s contribution to children’s education continues. She is currently Chair of the Executive Committee of Sesame Workshop’s Board of Trustees and in 2007, she established the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, an innovative nonprofit research organization dedicated to advancing children’s literacy skills through digital media. In addition, the Public Preparatory Network recently announced that they are launching the Joan Ganz Cooney Early Learning Program, a tuition-free, all-day pre-K program for four-year olds in the South Bronx.

Joan has been the heart and soul of Sesame Workshop for the past 45 years. Thanks to her vision, Sesame Street has helped millions of children around the globe grow up smarter, stronger and kinder.

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May 01, 2014

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Sesame Workshop Receives Sixteen Daytime Emmy Nominations

By Jodi Lefkowitz


Sesame Workshop is celebrating 16 Daytime Emmy nominations that were announced this morning.  Sesame Street is honored to be leading the pack of children’s programs with the most nominations! We are so proud to have three of the show’s performers Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Joey Mazzarino, and David Rudman up for Outstanding Performer and two songs “ABCs of Moving” and “Rhymes with Mando”  in the running for Outstanding Original Song.

Sesame Street’s cast, crew, and creative team were recognized in 11 categories:

Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Series
Outstanding New Approaches – Enhancement to a Daytime Program or Series
Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series
Outstanding Writing in a Children’s Series
Outstanding Directing in a Children’s Series
Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Direction
Outstanding Achievement in Multiple Camera Editing
Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing – Live Action
Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Live Action
Outstanding Original Song
Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design/Styling

The Workshop is also thrilled The Electric Company  and our community engagement program Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration both received nominations in the Outstanding New Approaches category. 

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April 21, 2014

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Sesame Workshop Partners with Child Care Aware of America to Support Resiliency Efforts

By Dr. Jeanette Betancourt


Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, is the Senior Vice President, Community and Family Engagement, at Sesame Workshop

Thanks to Child Care Aware® of America, Sesame Workshop’s Little Children, Big Challenges resources will reach more parents and educators than ever before, to help children develop the resilience they need to overcome everyday challenges. From saying goodbye to a parent in the morning, being patient, overcoming bedtime blues, sibling rivalry, and even relocating, the lovable and relatable Sesame Street Muppets™ can show them how. Many people think that resilience is an innate part of a child’s personality, but by helping children cope with the challenges that come their way, children can actually learn the skills they need to build resilience, and in turn grow healthy and school ready.

To help parents and children make everyday challenges into learning moments, Sesame Workshop has created bilingual (English/Spanish) multimedia resources including Sesame Street videos, print resources, and a guide for educators to use in the classroom.

We want to do everything possible to make sure our resources are accessible to families when and where they need them. That’s why a dedicated partner like Child Care Aware® of America is such an important relationship to the Workshop. With their established network through the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&Rs) field, our multimedia materials about resilience will reach more than 860,000 families per year, and we can continue to develop and improve our resources using feedback from those families. This pilot program will allow CCR&Rs who are members of Child Care Aware® of America to submit requests for proposal to participate in the pilot, and distribute materials to children and families in their community. Updates around the rollout of materials and how to submit requests for proposal will be announced on this blog.

For more than four decades, the Workshop has been focused on helping children achieve their highest potential. Today we continue our efforts, with the help of partners like Child Care Aware® of America, by tackling essential skills that can help children learn and grow as they encounter new challenges every day; they also provide the adults in their lives with tools to help young children build these crucial skills in a fun and furry way that only Sesame Street can – with the help of Grover and the rest of the Sesame Street Muppets.

Sesame Workshop’s Little Children, Big Challenges initiative seeks to help children ages 2-5 in military, veteran and general public families build important resilience and perseverance skills that allow them to overcome challenges large and small. One of the most important factors in building these skills is the presence of a caring, supportive adult. This is why this new initiative is providing tools for adults to empower the children in their lives to transform everyday challenges into opportunities for growth, development, and lifelong success.

 

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March 19, 2014

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Cleaner, Healthier, Happier

By Dan Lewis


2.5 Billion people currently do not have access to safe toilets. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Water, Sanitation & Hygiene program focuses on the development of tools and technologies that can lead to sustainable and marked improvements in sanitation in the developing world. Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, has been selected to join the 2014 “Reinvent The Toilet Fair: India” to showcase critical health messages as part of its Cleaner, Healthier, Happier campaign designed to reach children and families across Bangladesh, India and Nigeria.

Along with the Workshop’s delegation at the fair, Sesame’s newest member of its Muppet family, Raya, a 6-year-old, fuzzy, aqua-green girl, was introduced to the world for the first time. Brian Arbogast, Director of the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, sat down for a chat with our new friend, Raya.

Brian: Raya, it is so nice to meet you. Can you tell me why you are in India today?

Raya: Thank you. It’s nice to meet you too.  Everyone loves a fair, Mr. Brian! You say the word ‘fair’ and I’ll get there as fast as my sandals will carry me.

Brian: I noticed that you wear your sandals everywhere. Do you know why that’s important?

Raya: Of course I do, Mr. Brian! I know lots of things. I make sure to wear my sandals everywhere—especially to the latrine. Wearing my sandals helps protect me so I can stay clean and healthy.

Brian: That’s very smart, Raya.

Raya: Well, thank you. Do you want to know what else I know? I know that it is also really important to wash my hands with soap every time I use the latrine. Clean hands means healthy Raya. Healthy Raya means happy Raya. There’s nothing better than being clean, healthy and happy!

Brian: You know a lot about being healthy, Raya! It’s hard to believe you are only six years old.

Raya: Well, thank you,  Mr. Brian. You’re really nice! It’s hard to believe you aren’t furry or feathered.

Brian: Thanks, Raya. That’s the nicest thing I’ve heard in a while. And thank you so much for chatting with me today.

Raya: It’s my pleasure–very nice to talking with you too. I have to go now. Time to wash-up for dinner. See you soon. Bye!

 

This blog post originally ran at ImpatientOptimists.org

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February 19, 2014

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John Henson, 1965-2014

By Dan Lewis


With great sadness, we share the news of the passing of John Henson, son of the late Jim and Jane Henson and a puppeteer in his own right. He will be missed by his extended Sesame Workshop family.

To learn more about his life and legacy, please visit the Jim Henson Company’s Facebook page.

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