formal learning


Children’s Education Initiatives in the USA | Formal Learning

Sesame Street goes to school.

Children are making huge developmental strides between birth and age five, forming as many as 700 neural connections each second. Now more than ever, the staging ground for this important learning leap is the preschool classroom. That’s why Sesame Street is going to school: to bring children the benefits of early learning when and where they need them most.

As leaders in Washington call for expanding preschool education to all American children, Sesame Street has an essential role to play. It’s a natural evolution of what we’ve been doing for decades. Sesame’s mix of media and learning revolutionized television in 1969, becoming the most-watched children’s program in history with a proven record of success. Research shows that preschool-aged children who frequently watched Sesame Street had grade point averages in high school almost 16% higher than those who didn’t grow up watching the show.1

Over 40 years, our mission hasn’t changed: to help children reach their highest potential. What has changed is where children learn. Today children spend more time in childcare and preschool settings and less time in living rooms learning from their Muppet friends. While Sesame Street has been hugely successful, there’s still much work to be done. Studies2 show that about one in three children who arrive at kindergarten are simply not ready—academically, socially or emotionally.

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And that has major repercussions for society. The influence of early learning experiences can be felt for decades. By age 40, adults who attended high-quality preschools as three- or four-year olds were more likely to have graduated from high school, held a job, and earned a higher income. They were 24% more likely to own a home and were 53% less likely to have multiple arrests.3

With so much riding on children’s success in preschool, there’s no time to waste. We’re moving fast to translate our fun and fur-filled approach to learning for today’s preschool classroom. In this exciting new arena we are guided by four key commitments.

First there’s research, the foundation of all of our efforts. Sesame’s in-school learning and teaching programs will be fueled by a digital media library containing thousands of hours of child-tested educational material – thoroughly tested for educational efficacy and thoroughly tested for engagement, a proven way to help lessons stick.

Next, there’s our commitment to individualized learning. Children’s educational needs can vary widely, as teachers well know. It’s exactly what makes their job so challenging and rewarding. So we’re giving teachers smarter ways to ensure each child gets the lessons and support he or she needs to learn.

What’s more, we’re connecting what kids learn in class with another vital venue: the home. Research and long experience shows that when parents are involved in education, children simply learn better. Just as we do in our shows, we’ll use our tools to inspire teachers and parents to extend learning into children’s everyday lives and living rooms.

Finally, there’s the not-so-secret ingredient of Sesame’s success—engagement. For 44 years, we’ve pioneered ingenious ways to enliven children’s learning. Using laughter, friendship and age-appropriate storytelling, our Muppets demonstrate difficult concepts in ways that are easy to grasp—and totally irresistible to kids. Muppet-driven media will help teachers inject more fun (and ‘aha’ moments) into their classrooms, tailored to their own curriculum and goals.

To help us shape and strengthen this effort, we’re collaborating with teachers, administrators and academic experts across the country, along with like-minded organizations that share our mission. Just as PBS helped bringSesame Street into nearly every home in the U.S., new allies and partners, such as Teaching Strategies (TS) will help us reach into the classroom. For 30 years TS has helped teachers plan and use content-rich, classroom-ready approaches that work across learning needs. Other organizations will further strengthen our alliance of early education experts, including those from the Success for All Foundation and Public Prep.”

In this bold new venture, our goals are lofty: To surround kids with learning opportunities wherever they are; to link what children learn at home to what’s happening in school; and to use the power and appeal of Sesame Street to drive even greater results for children, working hand in hand with their teachers and parents.

Given the right support and experiences, kids are excited to learn and ready to thrive. This is what we know. This is what we do. Now Sesame Street’s mission is coming to life in another natural environment for learning. And not a moment too soon.

1. Huston, A.C., et al. (2001). Sesame Viewers as Adolescents: The Recontact Study. In S. Fisch & R. Truglio (Eds.), “G” is for Growing: Thirty Years of Sesame Street Research (pp. 131-143). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
2. Ackerman, D., & Barnett, W.S. (2005). Prepared for kindergarten: What does “readiness” mean? New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers University.”
3. Schweinhart, L. J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., Barnett, W. S., Belfield, C. R., & Nores, M. (2005). Lifetime Effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.


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American children who frequently view Sesame Street as preschoolers achieve high school grade point averages that are almost 16% higher than those who don't.

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