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Elmo Goes to Harvard

Elmo and Sesame Workshop Executive Vice President Sherrie Westin discuss the global work Sesame is doing to educate young refugee children.
Elmo and Sarah Dryden-Peterson

It could be argued that nobody is more universally beloved by young children than loveable, furry monster Elmo. And that love extends way beyond Sesame Street, which was evident on Elmo's recent trip to Jordan to visit with Syrian refugees.

"We got to visit a school, and read books, and meet lots of new friends!" says Elmo. And Elmo's new friends were equally thrilled to meet him. "There was nothing better than seeing children light up when they met Elmo," says Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, who accompanied Elmo on the trip.

Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) were recently awarded the MacArthur Foundation's 100&Change grant for their proposal to bring early education to refugee children. Their goal is to develop a program, similar to some run by Sesame in the United States, says Westin, that will partner with direct service providers to reach caregivers and give them the tools and strategies to build resilience in these displaced children.

“What a child needs to overcome stress and trauma is the same whether it’s in the Middle East or here at home," says Westin. "What’s so important is that nurturing care and an engagement with a caring adult. Believe it or not, that’s where Sesame comes in so beautifully, because we are engaging to adults as well as children — and we are less intimidating.”

In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Associate Professor Sarah Dryden-Peterson joins Matt Weber to speak to Westin — and Elmo — about the work Sesame is doing to educate young children displaced by conflict and persecution.

Learn more about Sesame Workshop's work with refugees.

About the Harvard EdCast

The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series of podcasts, available on the Harvard University iTunes U page, that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber and co-produced by Jill Anderson, the Harvard EdCast is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.


An education podcast that keeps the focus simple: what makes a difference for learners, educators, parents, and communities

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