It’s March, which means the country is about to come down with a serious case of basketball fever and here at Sesame Workshop, we’re not immune. Since the show’s second season, basketball players have stopped by Sesame Street to shoot hoops on the basket next to Hooper’s store and instill in young children a love of learning. In anticipation of March Madness, Sesame Workshop archivist Susan Tofte dug up photos of some of the basketball players who’ve hung out with Big Bird, Oscar and the rest of the gang over the years.
It’s critical that children learn the importance of oral health early in life. That’s why Sesame Workshop was so excited for last week’s launch of “Health Teeth, Healthy Me,” our new bilingual oral health outreach initiative that helps teach kids, parents and caregivers why it’s never too early to start learning how to brush your teeth. Please take a few minutes to watch some highlights from the “Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me” launch, but don’t blame us if you find yourself singing the “Brushy Brush” song for the rest of the day.
If you want to learn more about our new oral health initiative, made in partnership with Sam’s Giving Made Simple and the MetLife Foundation, read our question and answer session on the importance of oral care among young children with Dr. James Crall. You can also check out Sesame Street’s “Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me” page to find more fun videos and games that make kids smile while also teaching them how to keep that healthy smile.
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.
Dr. James Crall is a pediatric dentist and a professor of pediatric dentistry and public health & community dentistry at UCLA. He has served as a member or consultant on numerous national panels concerning oral health and advised Sesame Workshop on the development of our new oral health outreach initiative. We spoke with Dr. Crall in order to learn more about the general state of children’s oral health in this country and ways parents can help encourage an emphasis on oral health.
Sesame Workshop: First and foremost, tell me about the general state of oral health among young children in this country?
Dr. James Crall: Looking at the big picture over time there have been significant improvements in children’s oral health in this country. However, the first ever U.S. Surgeon General’s report on oral health in 2000 noted that there remains a “silent epidemic of dental problems.” Nationally things have improved since then, but despite those improvements there is still disparity in children’s oral health and millions of children still face significant problems accessing dental care, especially young children.
When Sesame Street debuted in 1969, the term “digital pen tablet” didn’t exist. It would be years before the use of personal computers and similar technology became widespread. But nowadays digital tablets are one of the primary tools used by our Creative Resources team, the talented people who take Grover, Elmo and Big Bird and create the vivid two-dimensional images that go in educational books, on clothes and on any other item where Sesame Street MuppetsTM can be found.
Often they’ll begin drawing an image with a pencil and paper, but the advancements made in tablet technology now allow them to complete a drawing in a small fraction of the time it formerly took. Unlike previous tablet technology, the Wacom tablets Sesame Workshop uses allow an artist to draw directly on the screen, as opposed to a separate touch sensitive pad. They also respond to the pressure of the pen, giving the artist crucial control of the thickness of lines. Whether furry or feathery, every Sesame Street MuppetTM is incredibly textured. The artists on our Creative Services team need that level of control to render them accurately.
The tablet also allows the artist to view the drawing from a variety of angles and distances. If the artist zooms in on a particular section of the image in order to add small details, his pen strokes will affect a zoomed-out version of the image as well. That way he or she can see how the details are changing the entire drawing.
The digital pen tablets used by the Creative Resources team are just another example of the ways Sesame Workshop is using technology to encourage laughter and fun, while educating children all over the world.
To learn more about the digital pen tablet technology, watch this video in which Sesame Workshop artist Diana Leto explains how she uses it.
By Dan Lewis
Tomorrow – February 28th – we’ll be trying something new here at Sesame Workshop. A few of us are going to be tweeting about what we’re up to, giving others a glimpse into the work we do here at Sesame Workshop. We’re visiting potential funders, working on handwashing habits in Indonesia, preparing for an event Thursday (stay tuned!), and a few other things. If you follow us on Twitter at @SesameWorkshop, we’ll be retweeting some of the updates from:
- Sherrie Westin, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, @srwestin
- Patrick Key, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Development, @PatrickKeySW
- Dan Donohue, Senior Director, Global Education, @DJD007NYC
- Giao Roever, Director, Marketing and Creative Services, @GiaoRoever
- And me, Dan Lewis, Director, New Media Communications, @DanDotLewis
See you tomorrow!
Thursday was the birthday of Gordon, the beloved father figure to the children and monsters that live on Sesame Street. Over the years Gordon has been played by different men: Matt Robinson, Hal Miller and, currently, Roscoe Orman. In addition to their warmth, kindness and strength, they’ve all had one thing in common: Matt, Hal and Roscoe are all African-American. This is hardly a coincidence. The character Gordon was conceived with the intention of presenting a more positive, dignified image of African-American masculinity than many children were exposed to at the time. In honor of Black History Month and Gordon’s birthday, we’re taking a look back at the social significance and impact of the character Gordon.
When Joan Ganz Cooney conceived of Sesame Street, she did so in the wake of 1965’s Moynihan Report, a report by Assistant Secretary of Labor and future U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The report claimed that, in the black community, a combination of out-of-wedlock births and absentee fathers were creating a cycle of poverty. If the show was going to fulfill its mission of providing early childhood education for underserved communities, it was going to have to tackle the questions surrounding the black family head on.
Gordon Robinson, who was named after photographer, filmmaker and civil rights activist Gordon Parks, and his wife Susan were the answer. As Roscoe Orman, who has played Gordon on Sesame Street since 1974, wrote in his memoirs, “what the character most significantly symbolizes, his most distinguishing and praiseworthy attribute, may lie in the simple fact that he is a man of African descent who for over three decades has been a respected and beloved father figure to young people of all races and all social classes all across America and beyond.” When the show began, many portrayals of African-American males in television, film and media were largely negative, whereas, in the words of Orman, Gordon “provided a model of patience, understanding, and civic responsibility.”
Michael Davis, the author of Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, even suggested that Gordon may have served as a model for President Barack Obama when he worked as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago.
Meanwhile Susan, Gordon’s wife, served as an exemplary model of African-American womanhood and together they created an enduring image of a black family that is loving and stable.
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.
Sharing, taking turns, listening to one another: Sesame Street has been encouraging these kinds of benevolent actions since the show’s first episodes. Here at Sesame Workshop, our early childhood education specialists call these kinds of actions “pro-social behavior.” It’s a term we use often when talking about the empathy and kindness we try to engender in children.
But we can’t all be early childhood education specialists, which means we might not all recognize the term pro-social behavior right away. That’s why we wanted to take a few minutes and explain exactly what we mean when we use the term.
According to our early childhood education experts, pro-social behavior is when children show positive behaviors such as sharing, cooperating, empathy, and taking turns when interacting with others. These skills can help children build strong friendships and relationships and enable children to navigate different social circumstances in a constructive manner.
Put differently, children experience many of the same emotional trials as adults – interpersonal conflict, the loss of loved ones, even the challenges of economic hardship are not lost on children. If a child is not given the emotional tools to handle those trials, they can have a lasting negative impact on his or her life. The more emotional education a child can receive at a young age, the better. If children’s behavioral problems are ignored, they are more likely to struggle in school and act out later in life.
The value of encouraging “pro-social behavior” at a young age isn’t just a theory of ours. Our research and education team has demonstrated its importance and the effectiveness of our educational methods time and again. For instance, children who view Sesame Street episodes with pro-social messages exhibit significantly higher levels of pro-social behavior than those who do not watch, as much as 40% higher.
For more information about pro-social behavior and Sesame Street’s proven ability to encourage it in young children, check out our page on emotional wellbeing.
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.