28 May Elmo and Friends Team Up With Stress Health
Those of us who grew up with the show Sesame Street know that its beloved denizens – Elmo, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, and many more – have always dealt with things more challenging than colors, shapes and the letter of the day.
Over the past decades, the quirky, hilarious, big-hearted Muppets have taken on some of the hardest issues confronting our country, including AIDs, homelessness and incarceration. In the near future, you can expect to see them sharing tips on the Stress Health blog. In the meantime, they contributed a wealth of materials for our recent Bayview-Hunters Point workshop for community leaders, whose design sessions we collaborated on with social justice consultant Public Profit.
The not-just-a-kid’s-show approach comes directly from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization that produces the program. The Workshop’s stated mission to help kids everywhere “grow smarter, stronger, and kinder” comes through loud and clear in every episode.
“Sesame Street has always been real-world,” said Sherrie Rollins Westin, president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, in a press interview. “It’s not a fantasy, it’s not a fairy tale. One of the things that sets us apart is respecting children and dealing with real-world issues from a child’s perspective.”
Unlike many other shows aimed at youngsters, Sesame Street is data-driven and science-based. The workshop staff works with child development experts, scientists, education specialists, and other researchers while making their episodes. They choose their approach to fit the particular community they’re working with, sometimes performing live shows or tackling the monumental task of creating a new character.
Just this month, the show introduced Karli, a young Muppet in foster care, and her ‘for now’ parents, Dalia and Clem. As the producers noted, “Children in foster care often experience many transitions — from their separation from birth parents to their placement in foster care, to many moves — and the new resources are designed to help children in crisis cope along the way.”
The new initiative to offer support to children in foster care — and to their foster parents and providers — is part of the Sesame Street in Communities program, which offers a treasure trove of free resources in English and Spanish for community providers, parents and caregivers on everything from homelessness and other traumatic experiences to how to offer comfort or get kids up and exercising.
At the Bayview-Hunters Point community workshop, participants were gratified by Sesame Street’s contribution.
“Sesame Street does everything for kids — it covers all the toughest issues other shows don’t touch,” says Sydney Dow, assistant site director of the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco Beacon, which is located at Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary School in the city’s Bayview district. “People are always talking about how to teach empathy and understanding, asking, ‘How can you teach that?’ Well, watch a few episodes of Sesame Street and you’ll get it: You’ll learn empathy. It’s an awesome show.”
Even in the most serious of shows, the Muppets’ joy and antics result in smiles or laughter from its small viewers. Above all, Sesame Street is fun. Consider one of Cookie Monster’s more colorful quotes from the time he made his transition to eating healthier: “Onion rings,” he said, “are just vegetable donuts.”
In the near future, expect to see Elmo, Grover, Count Von Count, Kermit the Frog and other iconic characters from Sesame Street occasionally strolling through our Stress Health blog. Sesame Workshop makes its educational resources — including videos — available to educational non-profits. Whether they’re humans or Muppets, the lovable, highly trusted friends from Sesame Street are the perfect ones to help parents (and their children) develop resilience.