Success Starts Young: Closing Achievement Gaps Where They Begin

A National Symposium on Early Learning Standards, Kindergarten Readiness, and Technology and Early Learning

Keynote Speaker
September 18, 2015 — National Press Club — 12:30 PM

People in this video:

Speakers:
Andrea DeBruin-Parecki
Rosemarie Truglio
Abby Cadabby
Georgia Thompson
Amanda Bryans
Jennifer Kotler
Kathy Grace
Tom Ewing

Transcript Body

On-screen: [Andres DeBruin-Parecki, Principal Research Project Manager, Early Childhood Research & Assessment Center, ETS]

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - We're in for a real treat on our keynote lunch speaker and her special friend, so I'm going to introduce once again Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, Senior Vice President of Curriculum and Content at Sesame Workshop. As a Senior Vice President she represents Sesame Workshop's strong commitment to research, efficacy and high-quality early childhood education. Today Dr. Truglio will take us behind the scenes to reveal how Sesame Street helps kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Rosemarie Truglio and her friend.

Rosemarie Truglio - Thank you. I hope everyone is enjoying lunch. Well, Sesame Street began in 1969 with an idea, and it was a very big idea at the time, to harness the power of television to better prepare children for kindergarten, especially those from disadvantaged homes. Sesame Workshop continues to invest in early childhood education. As a nonprofit educational organization, we are committed to making meaningful differences in the lives of children worldwide by addressing critical education, educational and developmental needs. Our mission is to help children grow smarter, stronger and kinder through the educational media we create across all media platforms to reach children and their caregivers wherever they are.

The first five years are critical in the development of children's brain architecture. Before the age of five the brain forms as many as 700 neural connections per second. It is during this time period that children are making more developmental strides than at any other time in their life. These neural connections, which are sparse at birth, are developed primarily through adult-child interactions between the ages of birth and age six. By age five, 92 percent of the child's brain is developed. The brain is malleable, but the disparities between brain architecture does affect later cognitive and academic skills growth trajectories, and these gaps are harder to close through intervention programs. Sesame Street as a preschool curriculum-driven brand has always recognized the beneficial effects of building a strong foundation during the preschool years and adopts a prevention approach instead of an intervention approach. Sesame Street's whole child curriculum drives content from the onset of content creation and we have always addressed all aspects of child development.

When I took the job about 18 years ago, I was surprised that the whole child curriculum gets revised on an annual basis. It does, and it needs to because we're constantly incorporating what are the best practices, what are we learning from developmental science in terms of how to approach early childhood education. While these learning objectives are listed by content areas, we no longer think about skills development by separate content areas because we acknowledge that our brains are interconnected. They're not siloed. So we reexamined our whole child school readiness curriculum as an integrated curriculum with the emphasis on cognitive processing skills, these thinking skills as I talked about earlier, and put executive function, self-regulation at the core of our whole child curriculum. And as I mentioned earlier that many people think that these are very difficult skills to learn during the preschool years, but it is the most ideal time for children to build these foundational skills. And by acknowledging executive function and self-regulation at the core and having an integrated curriculum, we can truly address what it means to help children grow smarter, stronger and kinder.

This slide gives me an opportunity to tell you what that means exactly. When we say smarter, yes, we're talking about those academic skills — language, literacy, mathematics, science — and we even have an integrated STEM curriculum, but it's also those executive function skills — self-control, working memory, focused attention, attention shifting, which we have to keep in mind, critical thinking and those planning skills. Stronger is about resiliency. It's about self-regulation, regulating and managing emotions, persistence, cognitive flexibility, self-confidence, and these are skills that are also needed in helping to develop healthy habits for life.

Kinder is about mindfulness. You have to be mindful and you have to be self-regulated in order for you to actually see what another person is going through, to have a sense of empathy and compassion for another. If you're not self-regulated, and if you are all jumbled up inside, it's kind of hard for you to focus on another. Mutual respect and understanding, perspective taking, which is an executive function skill, building those friendships, building empathy and compassion. And conflict resolution. How do we resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner? And among children we fight, and even as adults, we fight with the people we're friends with. We fight with the ones we're closest to.

So a little bit behind the scenes of our magic and to show you how we do rely on the science as we create our content. When Joan came up with this idea, this big idea back in 1969, to harness the power of media, she decided to create what we call the Sesame Workshop Model, and I truly believe it is this model which is why we are around 46 years later. She said, "For this to truly work, I need to get three disciplines to work collaboratively." And this struck me last night, Jacqueline, when you were talking about how we, leadership at the crossroads in early childhood education, how we've got to bring the early childhood professionals, researchers and policymakers together to work together. Well, when she came up with this model, and some of us call it a marriage, she said, "I need to bring in the creative, the creative team, the production team, but they can't call the shots. They have to listen and work collaboratively with the people who know about child development and how children learn so that we could design these content experiences in a very effective way to teach children. But we're not going to stop there because the developmental scientists often don't spend time with early childhood professionals and have a true understanding of curriculum and content and how curriculum is developed. So I need to bring these three disciplines together and I'm sure at the time people said, "There's no way we could work together," because these three disciplines rarely work together, but it is this collaboration that we have on a daily basis, and I truly believe is the real magic behind what we do.

So it starts first with what is the need? There are many needs across content areas, across development. So what needs are we going to focus on? And I'm going to walk you through today three needs in particular — literacy, science and resiliency. So once we develop the need, we then bring in the experts. Who are the people who know what's going on in early childhood education that we could bring to Sesame Workshop and we have a curriculum seminar? So we, not only the Education Department, but anyone who creates content across their, well, for their particular media platform, to hear directly from these experts, and then we revise the whole child curriculum. We then begin to script and put these ideas on paper. And Joan has always said we could have all the degrees in the world, but the real experts are the children. So we need to get the content in front of the children because they will tell us what's working, what's not working, what's engaging, what's appealing, and most importantly what is comprehensible for them, what messages are they taking away. We have intended messages, but what are they really walking away from? And we have Dr. Jennifer Kotler here who leads our Research Department, so thank you Jen for all that you do.

And then it gets produced, either a TV episode, or a game on the website or an app, or even part of our community engagement programs. All those materials are tested. And when it comes to creating content for the adults, teachers and caregivers and parents, we bring them into the formative research process because we need to make sure that the materials we're creating work for them so that they will use these tools effectively. And then it gets distributed, and then we want to know how well did we do? So we often commission others to assess how effective our product is, and we talked earlier about the role that ETS played back in the early days of Sesame Street.

So the first need is literacy that I'm going to be talking about. Approximately one-third of fourth graders across the U.S. score below basic levels in reading. Children who have an inadequate start in reading rarely catch up. Reading trajectories are established early. Reading failure is stable. And for children who attend schools in poor inner city neighborhoods where achievement levels are low, the risks associated with reading failure are especially grave. I'm sure the majority of you in today's audience is very much aware of the 30 million word gap. Hart and Risley, who by the way were at the University of Kansas, my alma mater, found that the average three-year-old from a welfare family demonstrated an active vocabulary around 500 words, whereas three-year-olds from a professional family demonstrated a vocabulary of over 1,000 words. Those differences get more pronounced as children enter elementary school in terms of vocabulary knowledge, their processing of language and their success in learning to read. From these data it was projected that children from disadvantaged homes generally hear 30 million words by age, 30 million fewer words by age four than their privileged peers due to limited experiences of being spoken to or being read to. When these disadvantaged children start kindergarten, they are already behind their more affluent peers in terms of vocabulary knowledge, and without intervention this literacy gap grows wider as the years pass. Anne Fernald and her colleagues at Stanford University are seeing these vast vocabulary and language efficiencies or inefficiencies beginning at 18 months of age with significant gaps established by 24 months based on socioeconomic status of the family. But SES does not need to affect the destiny of a child, and we talked a little bit about this last night, which is why Sesame Workshop has partnered with numerous organizations, in particular Too Small to Fail, and Patty Miller is here, in reaching parents of infants to explain the importance of reading, singing and talking with their children from birth. I've often been struck by the comment that parents would say, "Why am I reading a book to my infant? They don't understand what I'm reading. It's a waste of time." And so we need to overcome this misconception, and it's never too early to start early in terms of language development.

So when we got together with our advisors to talk about language and literacy, they told us that, which I thought was a really interesting comment for them to make, that vocabulary is the quintessential problem space. Vocabulary is difficult to teach in school, and I was struck by this, because it takes time to master, and as a result teaching vocabulary is often more effective when done in informal learning spaces, those everyday moments — the dinner table, the family gatherings, those conversations before bed, those conversations in the car. And you're probably all thinking about the conversations that you've had with your children, especially in the car, which I find is really interesting, because you're driving, they're behind you, and they're asking you the most intriguing questions and they're looking for an answer at that particular moment.

Vocabulary predicts listening and reading comprehension. Dorothy talked about this. When you encounter an unfamiliar word within the context, you're trying to figure out what words do you know so you could figure it out, which is why core knowledge is so important, and vocabulary leads to a deeper understanding of new words. They also taught us a term that I wasn't aware of, but to use super ordinance with children. Those are those categorical words. So children know there are cars, and there are trains, and boats and planes, but that super ordinate word transportation isn't always accessible to them. The same is true for reptiles. They may know the snakes and lizards, but they're reptiles.

Vocabulary promotes phonemic awareness. As children learn vocabulary, they will be investigating and learning not only words, but also the sounds of language. For example, when children learn ten words that rhyme with bug, they will begin to naturally gain those phonemic awareness skills.

So we took this all into account and we created a segment called Word on the Street. I know every episode is brought to you by a letter and a number, but it's also brought to you by a word. And this segment, and I'm going to show you a clip in a little bit, gave us an opportunity to talk to real children and adults in real places, and to provide vocabulary words in a meaningful situation for children. It also gave us an opportunity to visualize what these words are and to also highlight environmental print in the real world. The other advantage of media is that vocabulary, as I said earlier, is that you need to repeat these words across different contexts. Repetition is key in learning a word. So throughout the program we kept bringing back this word on the street, and so you get to see this word in different, in a different context. So I'm going to show Word on the Street at this point, if we could roll the videotape.

On-screen: [Word on the Street Reel]

Maury(puppet) – Hi, I'm Maury from Sesame Street and I'm looking for the Word on the Street. What's the Word on the Street?

Child speaker - Healthy.

Child speaker - Persistence.

Child speaker - Hibernate.

Child speaker - Resist.

Child speaker - Respect.

Male speaker - Measure.

Child speaker - Author.

Maury - What does the word "respect" mean?

Child speaker – Treating people the way you want to be treated.

Maury – What does the word "healthy" mean?

Male speaker – Healthy means you take care of yourself.

Maury – What do you do to stay healthy?

Child speaker – I eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

Child speaker – Persistent is when you keep trying at something.

Child speaker – You try really hard and you don't give up.

Maury – What does the word "measure" mean?

Child speaker – Find out how long, tall or how much something weighs.

Child speaker – Hibernate means to sleep through winter.

Maury – What kind of animals hibernate?

Child speaker – Bears.

Maury – What does it mean to resist something?

Child speaker – It's to control yourself from doing something.

Child speaker – Even if you really, really want to.

Maury – What does the word "author" mean?

Child speaker – Someone who writes a story.

Child speaker – Measure.

Female speaker – Hibernate.

Puppet speaker – Resist.

Child speaker – Respect.

Puppet speaker – Author.

Child speaker – Persistent.

Child speaker – Healthy.

Maury – That's the Word on the Street.

[clapping]

On-screen: [Word on the Street Initiative. Vocabulary words are connected to curriculum focus for the particular season.
Season 38: Literacy.
Season 39: Math Literacy.
Season 40: Science and Nature.
Season 41: Scientific Investigation.
Season 42: STEM.
Season 43: STEM + A = STEAM.
Season 44: Self-Regulation.
Season 45: School Readiness.]

Rosemarie Truglio - Thank you. And as you can see from this video that words were chosen across all content areas. So when you teach a word, you're also teaching concepts.

Abby Cadabby (puppet) - Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Am I too late? I heard you were talking about words. I love words.

On-screen: [Abby Cadabby, Fairy-in-Training, Sesame Workshop]

Rosemarie Truglio - It's Abby Cadabby.

Abby Cadabby - Hi, everybody. Hi, Dr. Rosemarie.

Rosemarie Truglio - Hello, Abby. Hello, Abby. We were talking about words, and I know how much you love learning about new words.

Abby Cadabby - Oh, I love my words. I adore, adore words. I love them.

Rosemarie Truglio - As you may know, Abby is our wonderful magical fairy who lives on Sesame Street.

Abby Cadabby - Aw, Rosemarie, that's so sweet of you. But you know what? I think it's the words that are magical, because learning new words helps me learn more about the world around me.

Rosemarie Truglio - That's right, and there's a different word, there's a different vocabulary word to learn every day on Sesame Street.

Abby Cadabby - Yes, that's what we call The Word on the Street.

Rosemarie Truglio - That's right, Abby. And learning words helps children build their core knowledge and language skills so that they can better express their thoughts and feelings.

Abby Cadabby - That's true. Hey, do you want to know what word I just learned yesterday? You're just going to love it. It's spectacular.

Rosemarie Truglio - Okay, what's the word?

Abby Cadabby - But I just told you. It's spectacular.

Rosemarie Truglio - Oh, yes, Abby, of course. Of course, spectacular. It means really wonderful, better than great.

Abby Cadabby - Yeah, yeah. And ever since I learned that word, I use it all the time, because did you know that rainbows are spectacular?

Rosemarie Truglio - Yes, they are.

Abby Cadabby - And dogs in pajamas, they're spectacular. Spectacular. Oh, and being with all of you, spectacular.

Rosemarie Truglio - And, Abby, you see how knowing that word really helps you to express yourself?

Abby Cadabby - Yeah, it does. Oh, you know what?

Rosemarie Truglio - What?

Abby Cadabby - Well, it was like the first time that I ever tried blueberries. Umm, they are so good and so yummy. And you know what my mommy, she told me the yummy, yummy word is to express myself?

Rosemarie Truglio - What?

Abby Cadabby - You're gonna love this one. Scrumptious. Isn't scrumptious a good word? You guys are eating a scrumptious lunch I hope.

Rosemarie Truglio - Yes, it was very. It was scrumptious.

Abby Cadabby - Was it scrumptious?

Rosemarie Truglio - It was scrumptious.

Abby Cadabby - Oh, how scrumptious and spectacular.

Rosemarie Truglio - And, Abby, you know what's wonderful about that word scrumptious?

Abby Cadabby - What?

Rosemarie Truglio - It helps you express how good something tastes, right? Plus eating scrumptious blueberries supports our commitment to helping kids grow stronger by eating healthy foods.

Abby Cadabby - That is true. Now, this one, get ready for this one, this is another word I learned. Wait for it.

Rosemarie Truglio - Okay, we're ready. Are we ready? Are we ready?

Abby Cadabby - Octagon. Yeah, yeah, that's right. It's a shape with eight sides and eight angles. And, yeah, it's an octagon, just like a stop sign.

Rosemarie Truglio - Very good, Abby. You know, I'm really impressed. You really are blowing me away because you used words to label the shape and describe the shape. Math language is so important for children's understanding of math concepts.

Abby Cadabby - Oh, I didn't know that.

Rosemarie Truglio - Yeah. See, we learn something new every day.

Abby Cadabby - Yes, because we're looking for an answer, which reminds me of my next favorite word. Come here. It's investigate.

Rosemarie Truglio - Tell everyone.

Abby Cadabby - Okay. Investigate. It means something that you find the answer to like I just did.

Rosemarie Truglio - And investigate is a word from our science curriculum. You knew that.

Abby Cadabby - Yeah, sure.

Rosemarie Truglio - All right, now speaking of questions, I have one for you, Abby.

Abby Cadabby - Yeah?

Rosemarie Truglio - What's your favorite Word on the Street vocabulary word?

Abby Cadabby - You're gonna laugh. It's ridiculous.

Rosemarie Truglio - It's okay. You can tell us, Abby.

Abby Cadabby - I just told you. It's ridiculous. I told you you'd laugh.

Rosemarie Truglio - Yes, you always make me laugh. That was a good one. That was a good one.

Abby Cadabby - Yeah, yeah.

Rosemarie Truglio - Well, I'm so glad you could be with us here, Abby, today because it was so wonderful for you to share your love of words with everyone today.

Abby Cadabby - Oh, you know what? I'm gonna share something even more. I'm going to teach all of you a word that you've never heard before. It's a word for your vocabulary, a word you never could imagine. It's amazing.

Rosemarie Truglio - Okay, you're not gonna get me this time, Abby. I know, amazing is the word.

Abby Cadabby - What? Amazing? What? You should know that by now. You're an adult. Ha, ha, I got ya.

Rosemarie Truglio - Yes, you got me. Yes, you did. It's called stump the professor, stump the doctor, right?

Abby Cadabby - No, no, no, this amazing word that I want to share with all of you is a fairy word. It is twinkletastic.

Rosemarie Truglio - Ah, now wait a minute. That is a word we don't know, do we?

Abby Cadabby - Yeah, everybody say it. It's so much fun. Ready? Twinkletastic. Even the men in suits said it. See, it felt good, didn't it? Yeah, yeah, the ladies love it, twinkletastic. It's magic, isn't it? Words are so magical.

Rosemarie Truglio - Well, Abby, I want you to know that we all think you are twinkletastic.

Abby Cadabby - Aw. Well, I think you are spectacular. Even more than rainbows and dogs in pajamas. Yeah, yeah. Well, I gotta go back to Sesame Street and learn some more. Fairy kisses and since you're here, how about a hug? Oh, love me. My doctor loves me.

Rosemarie Truglio - I love you. Thank you, Abby. Thank you so much.

Abby Cadabby - Goodbye, everyone. Twinkletastic. [Abby Cadabby exits.]

Rosemarie Truglio - She indeed is twinkletastic and we are so thrilled to have Abby on Sesame Street. The next need I would like to spend some time with is STEM. Children in the United States are behind in science and math compared to children in other developed countries. The preschool age is a developmentally pivotal time to provide a strong educational foundation to enhance children's natural curiosity — note the word natural curiosity — about the world and to establish scientific exploration and investigation skills. Math, literacy and attention skills are the best predictors of leader achievement success. Guided play with math-related activities increases knowledge of math concepts and visual spatial skills, and Kathy Hurst Pezacks(?) and others have recent studies to support this. It's sad to say that in early childhood education many people go into the profession because they feel like they don't have to have strong skills in science and math and, therefore, they're not integrating these types of content experiences in their classrooms. But the educators who do utilize science curricula report that students are performing at higher levels, thinking more critically and improving overall achievement.

We embarked on a four-year STEM curriculum, starting with science and nature, with the focus on getting children outside to explore their natural environment with their teachers and their parents. We were very moved by Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods and how he talks about a nature deficit disorder. Before we embark on any type of content initiative around a critical need in children's lives, we'd like to do our own baseline research, and I'm going to give credit once again to Dr. Kotler over to my right, because she went out to different regions of the country to find out do children in inner cities have a reduced knowledge of science and nature concepts compared to children in suburbs of Oklahoma City or even in rural Idaho? And I should pose the question, just a show of hands, what do you think? Do you think that if you live in non-urban environments you have more understanding of science and nature? Just a show of hands. What's your hypothesis? That the inner-city kids have less knowledge?

Audience - Yes.

Rosemarie Truglio - Okay. Well, I thought the same. What's sad is that they have pretty low basic understanding across all regions. Even those children in rural Idaho are not getting outdoors, and interacting with their environment and learning about science and nature. So we did take on this topic, but we didn't take on the topic in a negative way and talk about global warming and sustainability. We approached it from early childhood education. We want them to develop a love of their environment, a love of the Earth. We want them to have direct experiences and don't want the adults coming in and just giving them the answers when they have those questions. We try to encourage the adults to explore and investigate with their children so that they can learn together, because so often a teacher or a parent doesn't want to answer those science questions because they don't have the answer themselves. So and you don't have to go to these exotic places and go on these exotic trips. It's in your backyard. It is on your windowsill. So we went about and we created quite a bit of content, and then the question is, as I said earlier about summative evaluation, well, what did children learn? So we decided to go back into the classrooms and do a study where we introduced this content in the classrooms and across the same regions, inner city New York City, suburban schools around Oklahoma City and rural Idaho. And just to go quickly, because I'm not going to get into too much methodology, but basically we would do a baseline and we would find out what children know. And then we asked teachers to show a 15-minute clip of the show. We didn't give them a whole hour to watch. And we wanted them to have this little video moment, short video moment over a four-week period. The experimental group of course got the science content. The control group got our healthy habits for life because we want to be able to share good content even with the control group and hope to see some movement on their understanding of healthy habits. And then within four days of completing their viewing, we went back in and we conducted a post test, and we were very happy to see these learning gains: children's understanding of concepts such as metamorphosis, pollination, habitat, nature, hibernation. We did not shy away from these big concepts, but we presented them in a developmentally appropriate, and fun and appealing because we do have our Muppet characters such as Abby. You could just imagine how much fun we had. Just to bring the voice of a child into this presentation today, here are some pre-post answers when we asked children about hibernate. Pre: "You drink lots of water, lots of juice, lots of tea." Maybe hydrate, but quickly learned that it means "bears sleep for five months through the winter". Got that from our content. Pre: "When you decorate your classroom, decorate your house for Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween, Easter, Thanksgiving." Holiday? All right. But then after being exposed to our content "when animals sleep in the winter". And then we love the pre, "I don't know," which we get a lot. "You look for food when you, and when you eat all the food you go to sleep, and then winter's over and you wake up." So we were pleased with the data. We brought our advisors back in. We were very happy. "Look what we did! Look what we did!" And they said, "You know what? You did a great job on science exploration, but you could do much more with science investigation." So we went off and we created a lot more content focusing on science investigation and similar methodology. I'm not going to spend the time to talk about that, but lo and behold, yes, we could also teach children about scientific investigation. We posed questions to children such as, "What is a hypothesis?" And Elmo, while had a difficult time saying that word, he persevered, he mastered it, and he taught it and he taught the meaning of that word through actions, through behaviors. "What does a scientist do? What does it mean to investigate?" These are some of the words that you see these gains on.

I'm putting this slide here because I mentioned it earlier this morning that we have these wonderful toolkits, these digital toolkits that are available for free on our website. And if you go to sesamestreet.org\toolkits you'll find that we have resources for teachers and parents across all content areas. This slide just reflects a new STEM hub, which is called Little Discoverers: Big Fun with Math and Science and More, and it was an opportunity for us to put all of this science content together so it's in one place. But it's about having teachers and parents have these real hands-on moments, and so there's lots of activities listed underneath the fold, so I do encourage you to check it out, resources for literacy, math, social-emotional development and healthy habits for life, because we feel that adults play a critical role. We provide the language and the vocabulary. We provide and model what those everyday moments look like. But most importantly we are emphasizing let's learn together by exploring and discovering together.

So I shared two examples of academic skills, literacy and science, and now I want to talk about executive function, resiliency. Ellen Galinsky's book was an amazing gift to all of us. She's talking about what are the seven essential skills in the mind in the making of young children? She talks about focus and self-control, perspective taking, communicating, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges and self-directed and engaging learning. And I don't know if anyone is here from Tools of the Mind Curriculum, but I know that that is a wonderful curriculum that is really trying to teach these important essential skills in child development. And more recently Paul Tough's book How Children Succeed, and he talks about these character traits such as curiosity, grit, perseverance, persistence. My only complaint about this book is that he refers to these traits as non-cognitive traits. There's nothing non-cognitive about these traits. That's another false dichotomy. We have to stop saying cognitive and non-cognitive. There are cognitive processing skills underlying all of our thoughts and behaviors.

So to take this critical need on, we spend a lot of time with our producers and writers, and they told me, "Guess who we're going to choose as a character to model self-regulation and executive function?" Anybody have a guess. Cookie Monster. So I said to myself, "Oh, dear, maybe this is when I come to the end of the road because I'm not quite sure if Cookie Monster is the right role model for teaching self-regulation and executive function." So I did belly breathe, and calmed down and I called up Walter Mischel, who is the grandfather of the marshmallow test, and I said, "What are your thoughts about this?" and he said, "That's brilliant," he says, "because think about this — learning self-control and executive function skills, it's hard." We in this room, every one of us is dealing with a self-regulation, executive function skill on a regular basis and we fail all the time. Cookie Monster represents us and he fails. But what's important is that when you're teaching children strategies there is no one size fits all. There are multiple strategies to help children build these skills. And with Cookie Monster failing, he then introduces yet another strategy that may work this time for him, but models for children that if the other one didn't work for you maybe this one will.

And we're fortunate that Deborah Linebarger took some of our content and redid a marshmallow test, and in this time, in this particular study I thought she did a great job, because I don't know how many of you like marshmallows, but there are children who don't like marshmallows, and so they could sit on the table for hours and they're not going to touch the marshmallows. It's not a pain point for that child. So she interviewed the children to find out what their pain point is — marshmallows, pretzels, M&Ms, chocolate, whatever — and that's what they had to resist from eating. And after watching our Cookie Monster segments, she started an experimental control group, a randomized control study — right, Jen? — all those key words in the study, that she, that we, our content increased delayed gratification by four minutes between the experimental and control group. That is huge for young children.

These executive function skills are really important because children live in two different worlds. They have the world of their home, their family, and they have to then move into another world, the world of school, and they have to navigate these two worlds. They have to go back and forth and there has to be a fluid movement between these two. Executive function skills are critical for this, what we're calling this biculturalism, living in these two different worlds. So what I'm about to do now is I want to show you a segment from season 45 which talks about this, featuring our Muppets, and then after the segment we'll open it up for Q & A. But when we show segments to children we say, "You could sing along. You could move to the music. You can get up and dance. Just don't hit anyone next to you. Don't play with the next person's hair and enjoy the segment." So, Wanda, if you could just show it.

On-screen: [I Live in Two Different Worlds]

Music; lyrics – I live in two different worlds, like lots of other boys and girls. One's at home with my family, the other's school where I learn all I can be. I live in two different worlds, I live in two different worlds. At home I can speak whenever I please, I can talk real loud and shoot the breeze. School I raise my hand in the air when there's something that I want to share. Ohhh, at home we go [loud talking], at school we go [hands raised]. I live in two different worlds. At home I can sit here and there, on the couch, the floor, my bed or easy chair. At school I have a special place it's my desk and that's my learning space. Ohhh, at home we go [sitting on couch], at school we go [sitting at desk]. I live in two different worlds. School's got more rules because learning's the goal. Learning takes focus so you'll need self-control. At home I move wherever I like, I can run around or ride my bike. At school we have a different way, we stand in line every day. Ohhh, at home we go [dancing], at school we go [standing in line]. I live in two different worlds. Home and school are two different worlds. Two different, awesome worlds.

Rosemarie Truglio - Thank you. Thank you very much. So I could answer any question about behind the scenes of Sesame. You can ask me a question about some of the research that we've been doing, so the floor is yours, whatever you want to ask me. No? There's always a question.

Georgia Thompson - Hello. My name is Georgia Thompson. I'm with the National Black Child Development Institute. My question is, well, can you speak more about; I love that you just talked about the cultures of home versus school. Can you talk more about literal culture and how the program has been culturally responsive and culturally relevant for our very diverse families and how that's changed over time?

Rosemarie Truglio - That's a very good question. You know from the very beginning it was designed to be culturally diverse and to really represent a range of ethnicities and cultures, and also we have humans and monsters and grouches as well. But while they're implicit, there's also explicit messages, and we've devoted whole seasons of a curriculum focus on cultural diversity to get at what Dorothy Strickland talked about, diversity within a culture. So we did race relations back in the early ‘90s, and we focused on African-Americans one season, another season Latinos, another season Asians and another season Native Americans, just so that we had enough time to really represent the range of diversity within a particular race and ethnicity. So from the very beginning that was there and remains there. And we also have real people on the street, and we're very careful about who we're selecting and representing, because it's really important for us when a child looks at our content they can say, "I see myself on Sesame Street." And so that is something we're very committed to and will not stop.

Female speaker - Not a question, just a huge thank you. Without my educator hat, I'm with my mom and new grandma hat on. First grandchild born two weeks ago. Went to visit our son and daughter-in-law last weekend, and watched our son, who watched Sesame Street probably from four months, three months old, I mean his brother who was two-and-a-half at the time was watching it all the time and so he was listening and hearing, watched him carry his newborn, week-old child around talking to him with poems, silly songs, the kinds of things that he learned on Sesame Street. So I just want to thank you and the entire team. You have now impacted generations of children who are parents and probably will, you know, soon some of them will also be grandparents. Thank you to you and to the entire team. You have changed the world and impacted the children around the globe for many, many years. We're just so grateful for all that you do and continued great work.

Rosemarie Truglio - Thank you.

Amanda - Hi, I'm Amanda from the office of Head Start and just I want to also thank you. And I wanted to kind of comment on the last clip that we saw and that you talked about kind of implicit versus explicit, and it's such a powerful idea for young children that you can have different behavior in different places, and that seems to me to be kind of the leading edge of the idea of like cultural competence or being able to kind of adapt to where you are. And kids can get that, and I think you make it something that people are supposed to just know, explicit in a way that really can work for young children. And having said that, I was wondering do you happen to know is that on YouTube? Because I have a son who just transitioned to kindergarten.

Rosemarie Truglio - I believe it is.

Amanda - He's not really getting it, which is resulting in a lot of communication with his teacher and I thought maybe a little time with this video would be helpful.

Rosemarie Truglio - I believe it is on YouTube, and I would also have him tune into the current season because there's a lot of this content woven in throughout the storyline, not just one segment.

Amanda - Yeah, and you all know what we'll be doing this weekend.

Rosemarie Truglio - Okay.

Wendy Blackwell - My name is Wendy Blackwell. I'm from the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore, and we're doing a lot of research and a lot of work on families where the parent is incarcerated, and we use one of your videos about that. And I'd like you to talk about just the research that went into that and the research that you're doing on families with children with autism.

Rosemarie Truglio - That's a really good question, but if someone can give the mike to Jen Kotler, that is really her domain. She's the one who's done the research on incarceration and currently on autism.

Jennifer Kotler - Hi. So what we've been doing with families with autism is actually for a few different populations. We're looking to both provide tools for families who have children with autism, but also for the general public who could really use some tools to talk to other families and other children and include children with autism, even if you have a typically-developing child. So we've been having conversations with parents and educators, and it is going to be released I believe either October 1st or September 30th, but it's coming out soon. And the incarceration research we've done with Geraldine Oades at Rutgers University, and she is; the reports are in. If you would like a copy of that, I'm certainly happy to give you that. She's also writing it up for publication right now, so that will be coming out soon.

Rosemarie Truglio - Thanks, Jen.

Female speaker - Thank you for that wonderful series of clips and our guest performer. I believe there have been versions of Sesame Street in other countries. Could you talk a little bit about that and how they have geared their presentations to different morays and different considerations of what is proper behavior in different contexts?

Rosemarie Truglio - Sure. That's a really good question. I'm glad you asked it. We have co-productions around the world, and what's special and unusual about these co-productions, it's not that we just gave them our show and said, "Here, play it in your country." We give them the Sesame Workshop model that I just talked about and ask them to really look at what are the needs of the children in their country that they want their program to address. So we train them on our model and they're the ones who then figure out what is the whole child curriculum with the particular curriculum focus that they want to emphasize? So one example is South Africa, and they came back quickly and said, "We need to deal with HIV/AIDS," and that was something that we had to step back and say, "Okay, let's talk this through because your audience is very young. You're creating content for television and radio, so let's think about what this means and why do you want to do it." So let's not just say, "Okay, this is a need and let's just do it, but let's step back, and be reflective and figure that out." And they were very clear in what they wanted to do. There are children who have lost a parent or both parents to AIDS and have, are HIV positive themselves. And so they were dealing with stigmatization, and they didn't want children to go to school, and have them be stigmatized and, "We're not going to play with you because we're afraid of getting this virus." So that's their approach, but they also, and created a character. Kami is the little girl who is on their co-production. And they also talked about death because she did, she is an orphan. She lost both parents. And so there's a lot of strategies that they show children through the storyline about how she can remember her mommy and her daddy through these memory boxes, which is a part of their culture. So we dealt with disease stigmatization as well as coping strategies for the loss of a loved one.

Female speaker - How many countries have co-productions?

Rosemarie Truglio - I think currently about 19, 20. They come and go, so wax and wanes, but I think about 20 co-productions around the world. So we're in India, South Africa, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Mexico. My colleagues in the back are helping with all the countries.

Cathy Grace - Cathy Grace from the University of Mississippi.

Rosemarie Truglio - Hi. How are you?

Cathy Grace - I'm fine. Long time no see.

Rosemarie Truglio - I know. It's been a while.

Cathy Grace - This is a question that has to do with statements you made about children needing to see themselves through this, and probably you have a sense of where I'm going since I said I'm from the University of Mississippi. The context in which rural children may not see themselves, and the fact that we know there are many, many children in low-income homes that are in rural areas, perhaps more concentrated in the southeastern part of the country than others, and the fact that we don't have libraries, we don't have, even now we don't have broadband in some of the towns in Mississippi. So do you think that there would ever be any plans to look at how to incorporate more rural children or situations, even though I know this is mostly inner city as it has been for many years. But I thank you again for all of the work that you've done throughout the years. Thank you.

Rosemarie Truglio - Thank you. We do incorporate quite a bit of live-action films in our content, so we're not just relying on that set which does represent an inner city. So I think it's through the films, and I think we could do probably a better job in incorporating some of those areas that you talked about in our live-action films, and so duly noted and I thank you. But what's really interesting though is that when we do research around the country, children think that Sesame Street is their neighborhood. We find it rather remarkable, but they'll say, because they look at commonalities. They look at what's the same and I think that the set just is in the background. But I totally understand, and I agree with you, and I think the way to do that is through our live-action films, so thank you.

Female speaker - What I wanted to say is not a question. I think that Sesame needs to be recognized for the great work that they've done for the military.

Rosemarie Truglio - Absolutely.

Female speaker - They had wonderful, wonderful episodes, films about wounded warriors, families who had wounded warriors. They had films about deployment and death, and it meant a lot to their families. I know.

Rosemarie Truglio - Thank you, Andy, and you're absolutely right. I'm so glad you brought that up. And this is all available on our website, and so I really encourage you to go to the toolkit section of sesamestreet.org. And I apologize if it's kind of hard to find some of these toolkits, but if you do have any problem please just let me know and I'll direct you. It was a wonderful honor and an opportunity for us to create this content for families in military. And what's also wonderful about this partnership is that a lot of this content, while it pertains to them, it also pertains to the general audience, and they've allowed us to incorporate non-military family members in the resources that we created so that it is relevant and appropriate for them to use with their families. And death in particular is, yes, there are, the statistics are really high in terms of military families, but children do experience death of loved ones in the general population. And we're getting some really great results, because all of these initiatives have built in not only the formative research component, but the summative research, the impact, and we know and we are very pleased that we've done the work so well that we are getting great results on the power that the content can have on children and families. And I'm sorry. No one's going to ask me about like Oscar or Cookie? You clearly are all educators and very serious. I'm not getting any, "So what happened to Snuffy?"

Rosemarie Truglio - How do you become a puppeteer? Too bad Abby left. I know they have different kinds of workshops and trainings, and so the Henson Group does a lot of these workshops and trainings, and so we need more puppeteers. And I'm kind of glad you said that because one of the things I think is very valuable about Sesame Street is that we are live action. And so we're seeing these puppets, and these puppets are real to children. Let's talk about the power of power social relationships. When children see Abby, and Elmo and Big Bird on the screen, they're real. And it's because they're real and they develop these power social relationships with them we know that they're learning and we're very effective in teaching them because of these characters. I've never gone through the training myself. I just work with them.

Georgia Thompson - Hi. I had another question.

Rosemarie Truglio - Where?

Georgia Thompson - Here I am. Georgia with NBCDI. And I grew up watching Sesame Street, so I can definitely speak to the benefits. I know it specifically helped me with developing my language. My family is from Jamaica. Not an entirely different language, but accent for sure, so help with the kind of homeschool connection to reinforce what I was learning in school. So I say that to say it helped me to develop language, Sesame Street as well as other programs on TV. In the day and age of, with the current rates of childhood obesity and things like that, this being a television program, I know that Sesame has other products and resources as well. Can you kind of speak to that and if there are any like recommendations made to parents to limit screen time as it is a component that could contribute to childhood obesity? Just kind of a stance I guess?

Rosemarie Truglio - Listen, we believe everything is in moderation, and Lisa Guernsey is here and I'm sure they're going to be talking about this in the next panel. Everything needs to be limited. And I think what's really important is that television and other media tools are tools, and it's the content that is on, and it's the context within which we use these tools, and it's also the child. So whenever I have an opportunity, I'm always trying to explain to parents and teachers we shouldn't demonize these tools. They're here. Children are born into a media-saturated world. We have to learn how to use these tools effectively and the onus is on us adults. All right? And we have to put the limitations, and we have to put the right choices forth, and we need to co-engage and not use it as a babysitter and say, "Oh, yeah, you can watch television for five hours." So we need to do our part, but I don't think our part is to demonize, because we know in child development the moment you put something in the forbidden category the child wants it even more.

Tom Ewing - I'm Tom Ewing from Educational Testing Service. Thank you for helping raise my child.

Rosemarie Truglio - Sure. And how's that child doing today?

Tom Ewing - Well, she gave me our second grandchild a week ago.

Rosemarie Truglio - Oh, congratulations.

Tom Ewing - But my four-year-old grandson, his favorite book is Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree, and it's a book about sharing, and sharing things and the importance of sharing. And I also do magic as a hobby. So he loves this book, so before reading it I went down to the local bakery, and I bought a giant chocolate chip cookie and I hid it in my hand. And then I read the sharing, the Cookie Monster book to him, and at the end I shook the book, and a cookie fell out and I suggested that he might want to share it. So he broke it in half, and gave some to me and some to his grand-mom. So you guys make a real impact and thanks.

Rosemarie Truglio - Thank you. I think I'm going to end on that note. Thank you.

 

End of Keynote Speaker video.

Video duration: 1:03:03