science, technology, engineering, math

Children’s Education Initiatives in the USA | Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

A big STEM in the right direction.

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 Math and science have always had a home on Sesame Street. But since President Obama’s call to action in 2009, we’ve redoubled these efforts with science-centric lessons that draw kids out of their seats to measure, build and experiment.

Our newest initiative, launched in 2013, is called Little Discoverers: Big Fun with Science, Math and More and has received major support from CA Technologies, as well as generous support from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Little Discoverers is a digital destination featuring interactive Sesame Street games, engaging videos and fun, hands-on activities aimed to inspire young children, and the adults in their lives, to investigate and explore STEM concepts. Little Discoverers also seeks to provide educators with tools to help them integrate STEM concepts into their classrooms, and give parents and caregivers the resources needed to incorporate STEM concepts and language into their everyday moments with their children.

The digital home for Little Discoverers includes content that focuses on six key STEM topics:

  • Experiments
  • Sink or Float
  • Measurement
  • Force and Motion
  • Properties of Matter
  • Engineering

The content is available for desktop and mobile devices.

Topics like math and science can be taught to 3-4 year olds

Other STEM projects began in 2009 with Sesame Street stories that emphasized nature as the perfect habitat for serious scientific investigations by Big Bird and Elmo. 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

Elmo can also be found taking on STEM challenges as part of Elmo The Musical . And not just on television, but with online games, videos and interactive activities that build on storylines from the show. No matter where 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.

Additionally, Super Grover 2.0 continues to teach children key elements of STEM. 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

One year after Super Grover 2.0 hit the STEM scene, science became even more hands-on 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, Sesame Street continues to make complicated concepts 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.

As always, our educational efforts extend far beyond the show. 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

1 Fleischman, H.L., Hopstock, P.J., Pelczar, M.P., & Shelley, B.E. (2010). Highlights From PISA 2009: Performance of U.S. 15-Year-Old Students in Reading, Mathematics, and Science Literacy in an International Context (NCES 2011-004). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
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.
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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.

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