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June 12, 2013

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‘They Need to Know They are Loved’: Centerforce’s Carol Burton on Sesame Workshop’s Incarceration Initiative

By Graydon Gordian


The number of children with an incarcerated parent has increased nearly 80% in the past 20 years. Nearly 2.7 million children have a parent in state or federal prison, yet few resources exist to support young children and families coping with this life-changing circumstance. Children need tools to express emotions, while their caregivers need help maintaining routines and establishing age-appropriate communication around incarceration. That’s why Sesame Workshop has created Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, a new outreach initiative.

This bilingual, multimedia initiative includes material that can help young children with an incarcerated parent find support, comfort and reduced levels of anxiety and sadness, as well as provides parents and care-givers with strategies, tips, and age-appropriate language they can use to help communicate with their children about incarceration.

The Little Children, Big Challenges initiative, which includes efforts to address the loss of a parent, divorce, incarceration and other difficult situations young children face, grew out of Sesame Workshop’s Military Families initiative.

To learn more about why children with incarcerated parents are in need of support, Sesame Workshop sat down with Carol F. Burton, executive director of Centerforce, a non-profit dedicated to supporting individuals and families impacted by incarceration. Ms. Burton also served as an advisor to Sesame Workshop during the development of the Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration initiativeRead More

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June 05, 2013

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Cookbooks for Kids in the Age of the App

By Pamela Thomas


Pam Thomas is an editor in Sesame Workshop’s Book Publishing department and the author of several cookbooks.

Cooking with kids is not only an excellent way to find delectable  “quality time” with the family, it’s a perfect tactic for sneaking in teachable moments, all while  mixing up a batch of good-for-you muffins!  How about math: How many cookies make a dozen?  Or science: Why does butter melt when it’s put over heat? How does a cake rise when it’s put in an oven?  Literacy: What foods begin with the letter “C”?  And even a bit of etiquette: Let’s set a pretty table for supper! Or, let’s take a plate of cookies to the nice lady who lives next door!

And then, of course, there’s the whole issue of good health as it relates to food. Research has shown that Sesame Street’s furry, friendly, familiar characters can have a powerful influence over young children, guiding them to develop positive eating habits and to delight in exercise—strong ingredients for lifelong health. Sesame Street’s ongoing initiative, “Healthy Habits for Life,” proves that young children are more interested in healthy foods and good eating practices when these subjects are reinforced in fun, creative, colorful, and active ways.  That’s what Sesame Street cookbooks have strived to achieve. Read More

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June 04, 2013

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Sesame Street Teams up with the National Park Service

By Graydon Gordian


America’s national parks are some of its greatest treasures. There is so much for young children to learn and explore when they visit them. Elmo, Murray and the rest of the Sesame Street gang have always loved spending time at national parks, and they think it’s about time more kids across the country joined in on the fun. That’s why Sesame Workshop, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation have teamed up to create Sesame Street Explores National Parks, a multimedia parks experience for children ages 3-5, their families and educators. The project aims to help children learn more about science and the environment whether they are in a national park, a local park or even their own backyard. Read More

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Being Here for Each Other in Oklahoma

By Mindy Brooks


Mindy Brooks is Director of Education and Research for Sesame Workshop.

My first vivid memory of a tornado was the day my sister was born. I was 4 years old, it was nighttime, and I was alone with my grandmother who spent the majority of her adult years in Papua New Guinea. I vividly remember hearing the voice of Gary England (an Oklahoma meteorologist) giving advice about the storm and telling us to quickly take cover. To my preschool brain it was targeted solely for us and our house. I remember the panic my grandma expressed as she was new to tornados. I remember talking about how to take cover, securing the mattress over us in the bathtub, and holding on to her. And, even more vividly, I remember the feeling of fear that my parents weren’t there to protect me. Read More

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Bangladeshi Filmmaking Program Teaches Kids to Teach us

By Kara Koch


Kara Koch is the Production Coordinator in Sesame Workshop’s International Creative department. She works on co-productions in Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Israel, South Africa, and the Gulf.

Screening and dissecting videos. Writing treatments. Operating a camera, microphone, and light board. Taking written and oral exams.

You might think these are things only college students would be doing in an advanced film course, but if you are a 12-year-old kid in Bangladesh’s Rural Live Action Film Program, they are just the sort of skills you will learn to master in just a few months. Read More

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May 30, 2013

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Sesame Workshop’s 11th Annual Benefit Gala

By Sesame Workshop


George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth hosted Sesame Workshop’s 11th Annual Benefit Gala celebrating the organization’s commitment to early childhood education. The event honored Susie Buffett, chair of The Sherwood Foundation, and Qualcomm’s chairman and CEO, Dr. Paul Jacobs, accepted the corporate leadership award. Photo credit: Clint Spaulding.

George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth

Sesame Workshop founder, Joan Ganz Cooney, at the organization’s 11th Annual Benefit Gala celebrating its commitment to early childhood education. The event honored Susie Buffett, chair of The Sherwood Foundation, and Qualcomm’s chairman and CEO, Dr. Paul Jacobs, accepted the corporate leadership award. Photo credit: Clint Spaulding.

Sesame Street founder Joan Ganz Cooney

 

Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm, and his daughter, Jessica, attended Sesame Workshop’s 11th Annual Benefit Gala celebrating the organization’s commitment to early childhood education. The event honored Susie Buffett, chair of The Sherwood Foundation, and Qualcomm. Photo credit: Clint Spaulding.

Dr. Paul E. Jacobs and his daughter Jessica Jacobs

At Sesame Workshop’s 11th Annual Benefit Gala on Wednesday, we were proud to honor both an individual and an organization that champion the importance of early education and work to ensure young children from all walks of life are prepared for school.

Susie Buffett, Chairman of the Sherwood Foundation, received the Global Leadership Award for her commitment to increasing public awareness of the need to invest in educational resources for preschool children at all economic levels. Qualcomm Incorporated received the Corporate Leadership Award for its commitment to leveraging the power of mobile technology to educate children around the globe in new, impactful ways. The award was accepted by Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, Qualcomm’s Chairman and CEO.

Susie Buffett, chair of The Sherwood Foundation, was honored Sesame Workshop’s 11th Annual Benefit Gala celebrating the organization’s commitment to early childhood education. Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding.

Susie Buffett and Oscar.

To learn more about Susie Buffett and the Sherwood Foundation, click here. To learn more about Qualcomm and all the work they do to support the innovative edge of Sesame Workshop’s mission of global education, click here.

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‘Just tell them if it’s true’: Maurice Sendak and Sesame Street

By Susan Tofte


Sesame Workshop Founder Joan Ganz Cooney with Maurice Sendak

Susan Tofte is Sesame Worskhop’s Archivist.

“I don’t believe in children.  I don’t believe in childhood.  I don’t believe that there’s a demarcation.  ‘Oh you mustn’t tell them that.  You mustn’t tell them that.’  You tell them anything you want.  Just tell them if it’s true.  If it’s true you tell them.”   – Maurice Sendak.

In June 1968, the staff of Children’s Television Workshop (CTW, now known as Sesame Workshop) gathered in Cambridge, Massachusetts with a group of educators, scholars, child psychiatrists, television producers, authors, illustrators, composers, and puppeteers to determine what Sesame Street should attempt to teach in the show’s first year.  The seminars were designed to bring a diverse group of thinkers together to tackle a problem that no participant had tried to solve.  The challenge: find a way for the creative intuition needed to create a television show to work along side a deliberate objective curriculum.  The first seminar covered social, moral and affective development of children.  Among the 20 participants was writer and artist Maurice Sendak.  Instead of taking notes, Sendak doodled as the discussion of what four-year-olds understand conceptually drifted through his unconscious.  He doodled about sibling rivalry, children challenging their parents’ authority and violence on TV.  The sketches are classic Sendak – irreverent, subversive and witty.

After the seminars, Sendak’s involvement with Street continued.  He was an early member of the National Board of Advisors for CTW and consulted with Workshop founder Joan Ganz Cooney and producers on early storyboards and outlines for the show.  Some of the doodles from the seminars were used in the first promotional brochure for the Workshop.  The cover image of the booklet features a drawing of a child with a television for a head holding a Children’s Television Workshop banner.  Sendak also drew the first logo that appeared on early CTW stationary and press releases.

In addition to his work behind the scenes, Sendak contributed two animations that aired during Sesame Street’s second season.  He collaborated with Jim Henson on two animated films – writing and designing stories full of mayhem and ruckus.  “Seven Monsters,” a subversive story about a group of seven monsters wrecking havoc on a village, was turned into a storybook in 1977.  “Bumble Ardy #9”, Sendak’s best known short, is a tale of nine pigs showing up to celebrate a boy’s 9th birthday, eating birthday cake and drinking wine. The animated short was the basis for a book that was published in 2011.  It was the first book in 30 years that Sendak both wrote and illustrated and was the last book he published before his death.

It is unknown what circumstances led to Maurice Sendak’s invitation to participate in the early seminars for Sesame Street but there is no doubt that Sendak’s influence was felt during the early development of Sesame Street.  Both Sendak and the creators of Sesame Street believed that children understand a great deal more than most adults believe; that when creating content for children, one must take children seriously as children.

 

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May 24, 2013

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Herry Me!

By Joe Hennes


We have some die-hard fans of Arrested Development here in the Sesame Workshop offices, so we’re incredibly excited about the show’s return this weekend.  Our infatuation makes a lot of sense, since Tobias shares our love of blue things, Bert and Ernie know all about the Banana Stand, and everyone knows that what comes first is family (unless you’re talking about the things you eat, then it’s breakfast).

The connections between both shows don’t end there.  Several cast members from Arrested Development have ridden the stair car to Sesame Street.  The clearest connection is Will Arnett, who plays GOB Bluth, when he appeared on Sesame Street as Max the Magician.  He’s a natural, since GOB is known for his magic tricks (sorry, “illusions”).  GOB and Max even use similar-sounding theme songs.  They’re also not very good magicians.  Of course, the Sesame gang figures out Max’s illusions pretty quickly, which might threaten his membership in the Magicians Alliance.

Jason Bateman, who plays Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, brought his signature snark to Sesame Street to help explain the word “comfort”.  Getting cooperation from a penguin, a squirrel, and Elmo isn’t nearly as tough as wrangling the members of the Bluth family, but the end result is still just as satisfying.

 

Ron Howard, who serves as Arrested Development’s narrator and Executive Producer, and Henry Winkler, who plays the Bluth family lawyer Barry Zuckercorn, have been working together since their time on Happy Days as Richie Cunningham and the Fonz.  Richie and Fonzie appeared together on Sesame Street to teach body parts, on and off (with the help of Fonz’s trademark jab at the jukebox), and the letter “Ayyyyyy!”  He’s very good.

Several recurring actors on Arrested Development have popped up on Sesame Street over the years, like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who played blind District Attorney Maggie Lizer, when she portrayed TV reporter Kathie Lee Kathie in the Sesame Street’s All-Star 25th Birthday special.  Amy Poehler, who played GOB’s nameless wife, taught Elmo the word “challenge” in a Word on the Street segment.  Dave Thomas, who made for a very threatening British man, played a slightly less threatening carnival owner in Sesame Street’s first feature film Follow That Bird.

And that’s not all!  Arrested Development had their fair share of celebrity cameos, like Andy Samberg, Andy Richter, Ben Stiller, Richard Belzer, and Martin Short, all of whom have appeared on Sesame Street, in Sesame Street specials, and in exclusive videos made for the Sesame Street YouTube channel.  The fact that these two shows have so many connections is as Ann as the nose on plain’s face.

So as you watch the fourth season of Arrested Development, keep an eye out for more Sesame Street connections wherever they’re hiding.  They could be in a chicken dance, in an ice cream sandwich, or even a puppet named Franklin.

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From the Street to the ‘Galli’: A Story from Sesame Workshop India

By Sara Lederman


Sara Lederman works in the International Projects group on the Workshop’s initiatives in Israel and India. She began at Sesame 3 years ago as an intern while she was a student at Barnard College. Sara will spend next year conducting research in India on a Fulbright Scholarship.

The American Street overflows with giggling faces, neighbors congregating on city stoops, and friends playing jump rope. Sunny days and furry faces fill the Street, the symbolic artery through which so much history and learning flows.

The Indian Galli (alleyway) explodes with color and pulses with a rhythmic drumbeats. A caravan of diverse faces cheers as it zooms past smiling pink and blue storefronts and a technicolor lion kicking a soccer ball. The Galli is a familiar scene, a fantastical heaven tucked away in the dense city.

Both of these streets tell stories – stories of childhood, stories of community, and stories of culture. As an intern at Sesame Workshop and an anthropology student, I wanted to explore these stories in my senior thesis.

After working at Sesame Workshop in Global Education, Research & Outreach as an intern for a year and with the encouragement of a wise mentor, I decided to apply for funding to support a summer of original ethnographic research in India. Much to my mother’s chagrin, I traded in my ninth summer at camp in Wisconsin to explore the life of Muppets on the other side of the world.

When my rickshaw rolled up to the door of Sesame Workshop India in New Delhi, it hit me: I was experiencing, firsthand, what so many people back in the New York office described as “the longest street in the world.” Sesame Workshop India, the only wholly-owned subsidiary of Sesame Workshop in the world, is a lean machine comprised of a bold, fast, sharp team. Not only does this thirty-odd person office drive the production of Galli Galli Sim Sim (the Indian co-production of Sesame Street) radio and television shows that reach over 90% of television-owning families, but they also collaborate with national early childhood education experts to organize policy-oriented advocacy. They also just recently launched a franchise of after-schools and pre-schools called Sesame Schoolhouse, the first of their kind. And if that isn’t enough, this tiny team makes serious dents in school readiness and hygiene educational needs in India, a country where, if all the children broke off and made their own country, they would be the third largest in the world.

After a few days in the office and with the help of the supportive Sesame Workshop India team, I quickly identified a feasible research plan. In 2011 Sesame Workshop India was developing a Healthy Habits radio program intended to be distributed to a number of community radio stations. This particular series was designed in installments in a way that allowed flexibility for local adaptations. When I was in Delhi they were just beginning to roll out this initiative in a sizable migrant labor community on the periphery of Gurgaon, a major satellite city of Delhi. The community radio station, Gurgaon Ki Awaaz, took the material and tailored it to the needs of its audience, playing folk music from Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh –many of the migrant laborers’ home states – and addressing issues that were specific to the community’s needs. And, taking full advantage of radio as a flexible and communicative medium, the community radio station engaged callers in conversation surrounding education, water, employment, and safety.

As I conducted interviews with mothers, kids, teachers, and radio producers it became clear to me: everyone wants to consume high-quality media that speaks to them and, perhaps even more importantly, everyone wants to speak. The Sesame material served as an inspiration for the The Galli Galli Sim Sim community radio program, which provided a safe, educational and accessible space for some of the most marginalized families in the world.

That’s a Street of which I am proud to be a part.

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Sesame Workshop Announces Partnership with Teaching Strategies

By Sesame Workshop


Today Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, announced a multi-year partnership with Teaching Strategies, the educational company that publishes The Creative Curriculum and Teaching Strategies GOLD. The partnership will develop a series of educational offerings for the preschool classroom that utilizes Sesame Street’s proven content. Over the next five years, Sesame Workshop and Teaching Strategies will work together to develop new ways to educate young children both at home and in school.  Read More

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