Hot on the heels of a two-year educational campaign called ‘Talking Cents’ that taught financial literacy and fundamental life skills to U.S. preschoolers, Sesame Workshop and investment firm Merrill Lynch have cooked up a new kids outreach program that’s slightly more global in scope.
‘It’s about planting the seeds for civil and social responsibility,’ says Jeanette Betancourt, VP of program content for the Workshop’s education and research department. ‘We want to help kids understand fairness and unfairness, similarities and differences in world lifestyles, and economic situations that affect children in different countries.’
Powered by a US$5-million grant from Merrill Lynch’s Global Philanthropy Group, the educational guide for ‘WorldwideKids’ is still in development, and the partners are currently sifting through qualitative research to construct a relevant curriculum. Everything should be nailed down in mid-October, when Sesame Workshop hosts an education seminar in London, England with experts in globalization and childhood development. These savants will make up the initiative’s advisory council, and Betancourt expects to welcome production companies that have worked on international Sesame Street formats, along with organizations that promote kid community involvement.
Once the content is set in stone, ‘WorldwideKids’ will play out in 14 countries (Argentina, Canada, China, Egypt, Germany, France, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S.). Merrill Lynch volunteers will deliver learning kits in each territory and teach educators how to introduce simple educational games into their lesson plans that can make the themes hit home in a fun way.
Betancourt says many schools teach aspects of global citizenship to older kids, but preschoolers are left out because it’s assumed they won’t understand the complex concepts this topic brings into play. But she believes if lessons are delivered in an easy-to-understand way that organically builds on knowledge as it’s acquired (like literacy programs do), three- to six-year-olds in early learning environments such as community centers, preschools and childcare facilities should at least be able to better understand the world and their role in it.
‘Talking Cents’ is still an active program in U.S. schools, and its learning kits feature Sesame characters teaching English- and Spanish-speaking children about the value of possessions, how to save money and the concept of giving to others. Print supplements touching on the same concepts have also appeared periodically in Sesame Street Magazine over the past two years.