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April 09, 2012

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On the Ground with Rafi Peer, Sesame Workshop’s Partner in Pakistan

By Charlotte Cole


Ed. Note: Charlotte Cole is the Senior Vice President of Global Education for Sesame Workshop.

The gates of Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop in Lahore are a portal into a rich celebration of Pakistan’s culture. The compound, which houses a Museum of Puppetry, a crafts exhibit and a restaurant, is also the location of the home office for Sim Sim Hamara, the Pakistani version of Sesame Street. And it was there that I and two colleagues, Sadaf Sajwani, Assistant Director and Lilith Dollard, Educational Content Specialist, spent the past week. We were in Lahore to forward the work on a coproduction partnership that began two years ago when Rafi Peer received a grant from the United States Agency for International Development to create a multi-platform educational initiative known as Pakistan Children’s Television (PCTV). Sim Sim Hamara is a key component of that effort.

This is not an easy project. The challenges of providing a high quality educational experience to children living in a populous country where one-third of primary school age children are not in school are great. Yet, the creative energy that resides on the Rafi Peer grounds and the drive of the people working there make it apparent that, however difficult, the team will find a way to deliver on its promise.

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April 05, 2012

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Sesame Street Celebrates Baseball’s Opening Day

By Graydon Gordian


Baseball season is back and here at Sesame Workshop we’re excited. Ever since the great Jackie Robinson appeared on Sesame Street‘s first season to help children learn the alphabet, baseball and baseball players have been a huge part of keeping our educational content fun and engaging. Baseball has been a demonstrative tool in countless scenes from the show, such as the scene featuring Grover above. Some of the shows most beloved celebrity guests have also been baseball players: Who can forget Mookie Wilson and Keith Hernandez’s appearance in the classic “Put Down the Duckie”?

In order to celebrate Opening Day and the long tradition of featuring baseball on Sesame Street, Sesame Workshop archivist Susan Tofte dug up old photos from some of the times baseball players have hung out with Big Bird, Elmo and the rest of the gang.

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April 04, 2012

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Sesame Workshop Supports World Autism Awareness Day

By Graydon Gordian


According to Autism Speaks, a leading autism awareness organization, autism affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys. In the last 40 years the prevalence of autism has grown ten-fold. It affects more children than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined. That’s why, on Monday, Sesame Workshop was proud to take part in World Autism Awareness day. People around the office wore blue to show our support for the children who are living with autism and the dedicated medical professionals who are working to better understand and help treat it.

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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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Picture 1 of 9

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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Keeping the ABCs Relevant: Finding New Ways to Teach Kids to Read and Write!

By Rosemarie Truglio


Ed. Note: This post was authored by Rosemarie Truglio, Jennifer Schiffman, Jennifer Kotler and Susan Scheiner of Sesame Workshop’s Education and Research Department.

N.B. Above is a playlist of Sesame Street ABC segments from throughout the years. Keep watching to see more examples of our educational alphabet content, or use the playlist icon to scroll through and find your favorite.

The alphabet hasn’t changed since Sesame Street first debuted in 1969. No letters have been removed. No new letters have been discovered. Similarly, the importance of providing a foundation for a lifetime of learning is just as important then as it is now. What has changed over time is the expectation for a child once he or she enters kindergarten. We’ve heard countless stories from parents who are concerned that activities that were appropriate for first and second graders have trickled down into kindergarten. Standards are more stringent and expectations are higher. However the country is still facing a literacy crisis, with newspapers around the country citing statistics indicating that many children are entering kindergarten ill-prepared.

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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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The Evolution of a Sesame Street iPad App

By Graydon Gordian


Thorough research provides the foundation of everything Sesame Workshop produces. Whether it’s a book, a game or an episode of our flagship program Sesame Street, our early childhood education experts spend hours working with parents and young children to ensure that all of our educational material, no matter what medium it comes in, is both fun and effective. That policy hasn’t changed as new technologies have allowed us to bring our educational efforts to new venues, such as applications for tablets and smart phones. In fact, the simple nature of updating apps has allowed us to continue scrutinizing the effectiveness of our educational material even after it’s been published.

Take the recently updated version of our first book app for iPad, The Monster at the End of This Book, based on the classic book of the same name. Although the app, made in collaboration with Callaway Digital Arts, was tested before release to ensure that it was educational, navigable and entertaining, we received feedback suggesting some parents and children were not fully utilizing the app’s user interface. Even little hiccups can hamper the effectiveness of an app’s educational aims, so our research team went back and took another look at it. They found there were ways to make the app even more user-friendly.

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March 20, 2012

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Happy Birthday Big Bird: An Interview with Sesame Street’s Caroll Spinney

By Graydon Gordian


Big Bird in 1969, Sesame Street's inaugural year

It’s the first day of Spring. You know what that means? It’s Big Bird’s birthday! In order to celebrate Big Bird’s special day, we spoke with Caroll Spinney, who has played Big Bird, as well as Oscar the Grouch, on the show for 42 years.  During his time on Sesame Street, Mr. Spinney has touched the lives of millions of children. We want to thank him for taking the time to tell us about how he first got started on Sesame Street, how the character of Big Bird evolved and what his favorite memories from the show are.

Sesame Workshop: Tell me how you first got involved with Sesame Street.

Caroll Spinney: Jim Henson saw me doing my own puppet show and came backstage afterwards and asked if I wanted to join the Muppets. As a puppeteer I felt the Muppets were the Beatles of the puppet world. Jim said he wanted to build a goofy bird and also Oscar the Grouch, which was going to be a goofy purple thing that lived in a pile of trash.

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March 19, 2012

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Self-Regulation: its Meaning and Importance

By Graydon Gordian


Our mission at Sesame Street isn’t just to teach children numbers and letters. Encouraging socio-emotional development is also a major part of our curriculum. In particular, our goal is to encourage “self-regulation.” It’s a term our early childhood education experts use to describe a person’s ability to control his or her thoughts, actions and emotions.

Happiness, sadness, anger: These are all emotions that children feel. But they need to be taught to identify what they’re feeling if they’re going to respond productively. For instance, if a child has a toy taken away by another child, he needs to recognize what he is feeling – anger – before he can decide how to respond. Instead of, say, hitting the child who took his toy, if he knows he is angry he can realize that he has options for his behavior. One option would be to take a deep breath and ask for his toy back. Recognizing and labeling his emotions is a critical “skill” for a child to develop if he is going to think and then act instead of merely reacting.

Anger is a simple emotion, but self-regulation is also about identifying more complex emotions: pride, excitement, frustration, etc. At a Sesame Workshop curriculum seminar, an educational advisor once told a story about when her daughter came home and said she was angry. Her mom asked why and the girl said because a friend at school had a pink, sparkly coat that she wanted. Her mom told her she wasn’t angry, she was jealous. Identifying subtle differences between emotions like anger and jealousy is critical if a child is going to learn to be self-regulatory.

Identifying and managing one’s emotions and having self-control is just one aspect of self-regulation, but it is important when helping children develop social-emotional competence and achieve academic success. If a child learns self-regulation skills at an early age, it can help them be better prepared for school and for life. That’s why, when teaching children the building blocks of numeracy and literacy, we also help them learn social and emotional skills.

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