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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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January 23, 2012

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Augmented Reality Technology Brings Sesame Street Characters to Life

By Graydon Gordian


Having been around for over 40 years, here at Sesame Workshop we understand that there are some time-tested ways children learn and play – there’s no need to reinvent the playset. But we believe that, as new technologies emerge, there are ways to enhance and support the tried and true ways children use their imagination to make sense of the world.

That’s why we have partnered with Qualcomm to explore how augmented reality technology can encourage learning and emotional growth in young children. Our CEO Mel Ming, Innovation Lab team member David Glauber and Grover demonstrated the Vuforia augmented reality platform at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 10th. By merely holding up a tablet to a traditional playset, children can interact with their favorite Sesame Street characters while developing socially, emotionally and cognitively.

Quite simply, when a child points a tablet or smart phone at these toys, the camera recognizes the objects and they come to life on screen. The camera on the tablet recognizes 3-D objects – in this instance specially designed versions of Bert and Ernie as well as a television, a bathtub, a racecar and other toys for Bert and Ernie to play with. (The characters are designed with special code-infused clothing so the camera can identify them. But developers at Sesame Street’s Innovation Lab are confident that, someday soon, the camera will be able to recognize any of the plush Sesame Street characters children own.) T-shirts, books and countless other items also have the potential to “come to life” when viewed through the app.

When Ernie is placed onto the playset, the camera recognizes the floor and triggers a response on screen, creating “walls” around him.  In the prototypical version of the technology presented at CES – the app is not yet available for purchase – Ernie says hello to the user and asks for another Sesame Street character to play with. But in future, more developed versions of the technology, Ernie and the other Sesame Street characters will have a wide range of reactions to any given scenario. This will allow for both a more guided form of pretend play, as well as child-directed experiences.

 

Both kinds of play – guided and child-directed – are important for fostering social confidence and a children’s ability to manage their own behavior and emotions. As children move toys in and out of the playset, they choose what kinds of social situations they would like to experiment with. Meanwhile, the app provides the structure necessary for them to learn more advanced forms of narrative construction, such as telling stories with a beginning, middle and end.

It was important to our Innovation Lab team that, in the words of team member Jason Milligan, the use of the augmented reality technology not be “gimmicky.” Milligan and the rest of the team wanted it to genuinely support and enhance the well-established ways children already play with their toys. So they reimagined the ways information can be input into a digital tool like a tablet.

For instance, when children play, they physically move their toys in and out of the playset. That’s why, instead of using a mouse or touch screen as an input device, the toys themselves are the input device. It’s also why all it takes to “activate” the toy’s digital rendering is to point the tablet at it. Directing the camera at the jukebox causes music to play; directing it at the TV turns it on, and causes whatever Sesame Street scene is playing to fill the tablet screen.

Because it comes in the form of an app, the technology is very malleable. As new characters are created and new storylines for them imagined, the software can be automatically updated like any other app. This is just the first generation of a new technology that has almost limitless possibilities.

The future is a fun place to play.

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This Week in Sesame Street: Big Bird’s First Visit to Hollywood Squares

By Graydon Gordian


Welcome to This Week in Sesame Street, a new feature in which we’ll revisit all the funny, touching and memorable moments Sesame Street has produced since it was first aired in 1969. This week we’re taking a look back at the first time Big Bird appeared on the classic game show Hollywood Squares.

Hollywood Squares has had countless famous guests over the years, but none quite like Big Bird. On January 19, 1976, Big Bird was a guest on the show for the first time. Plopped down next to Broadway star Carol Channing, best known for her work in Hello Dolly! and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Big Bird answered questions on birds (an expertise of his), Broadway musicals and even chimed in to help out Channing a time or two.

It would hardly be the last time Big Bird appeared on the now-defunct show: Between 1979 and 2001, Big Bird would appear on the show 14 times, most coming during the years in which Peter Marshall (whom Big Bird lovingly referred to as “Mr. Marshmallow”) was host. He also wasn’t the only Sesame Street character to appear on the show: Oscar the Grouch and Elmo have both been guests as well.

For video of Big Bird’s appearance, click here.

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Sesame Street Monsters Swing by Good Morning America to Bake Some Treats

By Graydon Gordian


Cookie Monster has been obsessing over his beloved cookies since 1969. But if you happened to try the ones he actually eats on set, I’m not sure you’d love them as much as he does. At least Good Morning America’s Josh Elliott didn’t after accidentally tasting one when Elmo and Cookie Monster stopped by Good Morning America on Thursday, January 5.

The Sesame Street Muppets were there last week to teach George Stephanopoulos and the rest of the GMA crew a few recipes from Sesame Street’s new cookbook B is for Baking. While everyone was trying some of Elmo’s red velvet cupcakes – made with healthy, hot pink beat puree instead of food coloring – Elliott came onto set and tried out a cookie. He was surprised to find that the cookies weren’t Bert’s lemony oat sugar cookies, Ernie’s All-American snickerdoodles, or any of the other tasty treats that can be found in B is for Baking. Instead it was the prop cookies that Cookie Monster devours during each episode of Sesame Street.

Although children watching at home think they’re real cookies, the performers have always used cookies that include no sugar and as little oil as possible. Real cookies are avoided because the oil could discolor or damage Cookie Monster’s fur.

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January 17, 2012

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Modern Family’s Nolan Gould Helps Sesame Street Fight Child Hunger

By Nolan Gould



I was recently watching “Growing Hope Against Hunger,” a new TV special about childhood hunger in America, and I was really shocked to learn that lots of kids just like me don’t have enough food to eat. So Murray from Sesame Street and I teamed up to raise awareness about childhood hunger by hosting a screening of the TV special at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Giving back is very big for me. I’ve always said that, if I had the opportunity to use my celebrity to help change the world, I would do just that. Now that I’m on an Emmy-award winning show, ABC’s Modern Family, it’s great to have the opportunity to help make a difference in other kids lives. Check out this video Murray and I made to help explain what a Food Bank is and all the ways you can volunteer to make American kids healthier and happier!

I am honored and so proud to be a part of this amazing project. To learn more about all the great work Sesame Street and I are doing to fight childhood hunger and to watch the “Growing Hope Against Hunger” special, click here.

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January 12, 2012

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Sesame Workshop and Qualcomm Unveil Next Step in Children’s Education

By Beatrice Chow


Qualcomm Vuforia and Sesame Street

Qualcomm's Vuforia In Action with Sesame Street Characters

“Much of Sesame Workshop’s success can be attributed to our collaborative, research-intensive approach to the development of programs and activities. Qualcomm’s Vuforia platform offers a new dimension to mobile experiences. We think it can bring enhanced entertainment and educational benefits to children.”
– Terry Fitzpatrick, chief content and distribution officer, Sesame Workshop.

Sesame Workshop has been a longtime advocate of embracing cutting-edge technologies to enrich children’s early learning experiences. At the International CES (Consumer Electronics Show), Qualcomm and Sesame Workshop unveiled the result of their latest collaboration, a prototype playset that brings physical toys to life.

Using a tablet and a traditional playset, children engage with their toys to make playtime both fun and educational. The prototype playset includes elements such as common household objects, as well as figurines of classic Sesame Street characters Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie. Children interact with this playset using a tablet and an application that features Qualcomm’s newly branded Vuforia augmented reality platform. When the tablet is pointed at the playset, the pieces and the play environment come alive through the tablet’s camera, transforming the playset into an interactive experience.

“In the past, the only place toys came to life was on TV and in movies. Today, we are bringing that magic one step closer to reality,” said Jay Wright, senior director of business development at Qualcomm. “With the ability to recognize 3D objects, Qualcomm’s Vuforia platform will transform the play experience. Our collaboration with the Sesame Workshop is helping us demonstrate the power of augmented reality to enrich children’s lives.”

Qualcomm’s award-winning Vuforia platform transforms real-world objects into interactive experiences for use in gaming, interactive media and instructional applications.  Sesame Workshop seized the opportunity to combine their educational research with cutting-edge technology to address children’s developmental needs. Augmented reality is another major step in proving that technology can be a useful tool in children’s education.

For more information, read the full press release here.

News Coverage:
A Game-Changer for Television? Sesame Street Will Be First Interactive Show
Reuters

CES: Qualcomm Teams with Sesame Street, Microsoft
The Street

Educational Applications of Augmented Reality
Raman Media Network

CES Moment of Zen: A Fuzzy Friend
CNet

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January 12, 2012

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Sesame Workshop Statement on Breastfeeding Petitions

By Sesame Workshop


Sesame Street is a research-based educational program for preschoolers. Each new season is designed to teach a specific curriculum; this year’s curriculum is science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  Sesame Street does not have a mandate against breastfeeding, and the show never made a switch to portray bottle-feeding only.  We have depicted breastfeeding in the past, and would include it again in the future if it was a natural part of the storyline.

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December 08, 2011

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Sesame Workshop Helps Families Eat Healthy on a Budget

By Pam Hacker


Food For Thought

Photo By Gil Vaknin

“As a parent, I am reminded on a daily basis how important a healthy diet is to both physical and emotional well-being. There are few things more heartbreaking than the eyes of a hungry child, or a parent who feels too much shame to ask for help. I’m honored to be a part of this important initiative.”
-Erica Hill, Co-Anchor, CBS News’ The Early Show

In December of 2010, Sesame Workshop launched Food for Thought: Eating Healthy on a Budget, a bilingual (English-Spanish) multimedia outreach initiative designed to help children between the ages of two and eight and their families cope with uncertain or limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Today, Sesame Workshop unveiled compelling research on the initiative, demonstrating that Food For Thought: Eating Healthy on A Budget has been successful in helping families increase knowledge beliefs and behaviors around nutrition. The study was conducted by the Field Research Corporation and funded by The Merck Company foundation.

Food For Thought

Photo by Jen Rupnik

A livestream panel was also held today to present the results, moderated by Erica Hill, Co-Anchor of CBS News The Early Show, at the national Press Club in Washington, D.C. She was joined by several experts including:

  • Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President, Outreach and Educational Practices, Sesame Workshop
  • Enid Borden, President and CEO, Meals on Wheels Association of America
  • Mark DiCamillo, Senior Vice President, Field Research Corporation
  • Vicki Escarra, President & CEO, Feeding America
  • Tianna Gaines, Witnesses to Hunger
  • Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President and CEO, National WIC Association
  • Ronald Kleinman, M.D., Physician in Chief, MassGeneral Hospital for Children

The study focused on the impact of a four week exposure to the kit and found that it had a positive impact on behaviors and attitudes regarding how to cope with food insecurity. This translated into concrete activities for the participants, who were more likely to seek help, save money on food, and choose healthier eating for their families after working with the kit. Most importantly, participants showed a dramatically increased ability to cope with food insecurity and communicate with their children about food security worries. Sesame Workshop hopes that it can continue initiatives like Food For Thought and Growing Hope For Hunger in an effort to help families find resources and grow stronger together.

For more information, read the full press release here.

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December 02, 2011

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Amar’e Stoudemire Drops by Sesame Street

By Philip Toscano


December is the time for snow, family and, of course, the holidays and Shalom Sesame has everything you need!

For those sports buffs wondering what the NBA players have been up to during the lockout, be sure to catch New York Knicks Superstar Amar’e Stoudemire discovering more about Jewish culture when he stopped by Sesame Street to teach Shalom Sesame fans the Hebrew word “Tov”, which means “good.” Check out Amar’e on the newly launched and redesigned Shalom Sesame website and on Shalom Sesame’s YouTube channel.

Shalomsesame.org  has a new look and feel, brand new videos, downloadable resources and a printables section for parents and kids to experience Jewish learning together.

But there’s more! Shalom Sesame’s 12-part DVD series, brought to you by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, and Israel’s Channel HOP!, is great for any occasion. Whether it be traveling to Israel, entering Hebrew school or celebrating the holidays, this series is a great way to learn about the diversity and vitality of Israeli life. Shalom Sesame DVD’s, including the full series gift box set, are available at sisu@sisuent.com

Be sure to check your local PBS listings for special broadcasts of Shalom Sesame’s “Chanukah: The Missing Menorah.”  It’s time to celebrate Chanukah in Israel and Grover is bringing the latkes! All is well until Anneliese gets caught in a game of tag with a chicken and loses her special menorah …right before sunset! Can her friends find the missing menorah in time? Tune in to find out!

For young readers this holiday season, Elmo finds out what a dreidel is as he celebrates the first night of Chanukah with a friend’s family in the board book, Elmo’s Little Dreidel, published by Random House Children’s Books.

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November 30, 2011

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Sesame Street Comes to Afghanistan

By Philip Toscano


“It is a fundamental fact that media plays a significant role in education development through educational and public awareness programs. In light of this fact, the Ministry of Education has focused on providing distance educational programs through its Education TV. I believe that Baghche-e-Simsim program that depict traditions, culture and other aspects of Afghan rural and urban life are profoundly useful for the cognitive development of our children and transforming our society towards, social welfare, economic growth and durable peace.”
-H.E. Farooq Warda, Afghan Minister of Education.

In Afghanistan, the under-five population numbers nearly five million.  Yet only a small percentage of children are served by Kodakistans, the country’s kindergarten system.  Early childhood education is a problem of institutional proportions.

To combat this, we partnered with local television stations Tolo TV and Lemar TV and, in consultation with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education, created created Baghch-e-Simsim.  A brand new children’s television series, Baghch-e-Simsim features locally produced live action films intertwined with the Muppets from Sesame Street.   Baghch-e-Simsim premieres on December and its the first season contains of 26 half-hour episodes.  The show will be broadcast in both Dari and Pashto languages.

Baghch-e-Simsim, which means “Sesame Garden,” contains 13 locally produced live action films that depict traditions, culture and other aspects of urban and rural life in Afghanistan. These two-to-three minute mini-documentaries feature and celebrate the daily lives of young children from across Afghanistan and introduce one another to the rich diversity of the country’s various provinces.

Additionally, the furry and feathered friends from Sesame Street, like Elmo, Big Bird and Grover, will be on hand to encourage children in core-competencies like literacy, math, school readiness, and life skills with a special emphasis on girls’ education, diversity and cultural awareness. Sesame Muppets from co-productions around the world, including Egypt, Bangladesh, Mexico and Russia will also be featured in segments throughout the series.

For a behind the scenes look at Baghch-e-Simsim, click here.

For more information, read the full press release here.

News Coverage:
Afghan children ready to walk down Sesame Street

Reuters

Sesame Street goes to Afghanistan
The Guardian

Sesame Street to be broadcast in Afghanistan
The Telegraph

“Sunny day, sweepin’ the clouds away…” arrives in Afghanistan
MSNBC

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