science, technology, engineering and math
Math with a side of guacamole.
How do you whip up a dip fit for the Queen of Nacho Picchu? Elmo has the recipe: 14 avocados, 3 tablespoons of onion, plus lots of waving and stomping as you
“Do the Guacamole.” Welcome to Elmo The Musical, which premiered this fall on Sesame Street’s 43rd season. The guest of honor in Elmo’s song- and dance-filled adventures is Math: the “M” in our multi-season STEM curriculum.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, skills absolutely critical for navigating our complex, technology-driven world—and fields where American children lag behind other developed countries according to a global study.1 In 2009, President Obama committed to boosting STEM education, saying that “strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation is essential to meeting the challenges of this century.” We took the President’s challenge very seriously. So how did that lead to math with a side of guacamole?
Math and science have always had a home on Sesame Street. But since the President’s call to action we’ve redoubled these efforts with science-centric lessons that draw kids out of their seats to measure, build and experiment.
It began in 2009 with stories emphasizing nature. It was the perfect habitat for serious scientific investigations, like Big Bird considering warm spots for a possible migration or Elmo and Chris figuring out why you can’t go sledding in spring. The impact was impressive. Children who watched knew 50% more nature-related science terms—such as metamorphosis, hibernation, habitat, and pollination—than those who didn’t watch the episodes.2
Arriving on the scene in Season 41 (often with a dramatic crash-landing) was Super Grover 2.0. Using his amazing super powers of observing, questioning and investigating, our hero stumbles across scientific answers to urgent problems. How do you get a classy cow down some steep stairs? Why a ramp, of course, an engineering feat Super Grover discovers after many rounds of hilarious trial and error. The result? Kids viewing programs from the second year of our STEM curriculum increased their ability to articulate scientific concepts, such as hypothesis and investigation, by a whopping 100%.3
Science got especially hands-on in Season 42 with Murray’s science experiments: one-minute segments where Murray, Sesame’s excitable and inquisitive orange monster, answers scientific questions with help from real kids. For example, which toy car can roll the farthest: the light one, the heavy one…or the one with the extra wheel? Murray gets preschoolers directly involved with experiments to find out for themselves (lightweight wins hands down).
Season after season, we’re making complicated things simple—a specialty of our Muppets. Topics like math and science may not seem at first to be within the grasp of the average 3- or 4-year-old. But in the hands of our educators, writers and Muppeteers, these concepts become storylines that spark the imaginations of little engineers and scientists, from brewing the ideal bubble-blowing mixture to exploring outer space while delivering pizza.
With efforts like Elmo The Musical, we’re introducing not only vital skills, but the chance to express them. “As STEM topics continue to be a critical area of a preschooler’s early education, it’s important to help children explore these concepts through various channels—especially the arts,” said Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, Sesame’s SVP of Education and Research. “Incorporating the arts into our STEM curriculum was an exciting and natural addition, as Sesame Street has always used music, visual and performing arts as tools to educate and entertain children.”
As always, our educational efforts extend way beyond the show. Way, way beyond the show in fact, as was the case in Elmo’s very scientific tour of NASA and conversations with its astronauts in orbit. Closer to home, our outreach initiative in partnership with PNC Bank takes math all over America. Called Math is Everywhere, these activity-packed kits show parents and kids how math is part of everyday life, whether it’s sorting laundry or folding napkins. Almost all parents (97 percent) using the kit said it increased the time their child spends on math-related activities, and more than 90 percent reported a change in their children's interest in activities like sorting and matching.4
Elmo The Musical is currently lighting up not just TVs but screens of all sizes, with online games, videos and interactive activities that build on storylines from the show. But wherever kids catch Elmo, he’s sure to sweep them up in a fanciful adventure full of skills every little mathematician needs. Important stuff, like how to measure ingredients for a royal guacamole mix, find the Bermuda octagon…or subtract barnacles off a giant pink whale.
2 Brooks, M.K., Kotler, J.A., & Truglio, R.T. (2011). The Influence of Sesame Street on Children’s Understanding of Nature and the Environment. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Montreal, QC, Canada.
3 Brooks, M.K., Kotler, J.A., Gartner, T., & Truglio, R.T. (2011). The Influence of Sesame Street on Children’s Knowledge of STEM concepts. Unpublished presentation. Sesame Workshop, New York.
4 KidPoint, LLC. (2001, March). Math Is Everywhere Evaluation Report.
Over 90% of U.S. parents report a change in their children's interest in counting, sorting and matching as a result of our Math is Everywhere outreach materials.learn more
- The importance of STEM play video
- Super Grover 2.0 play video
- Murray’s science experiments play video