"Sesame Street" is no longer content to teach young children the basics of counting and the alphabet, but is reaching for a new goal of introducing concepts about nature, math, science and engineering to its young viewers, reports Elizabeth Jensen in The New York Times.
"The content is wrapped in the traditional silliness; these are still Muppets. But the more sophisticated programming, on a show that frequently draws an audience even younger than the 3- to-5-year-olds it targets, raises a question: Is there any evidence that it is doing anything more than making PBS and parents feel good?" Jensen writes.
In one example, "Super Grover 2.0" shows a cow, who is stuck at the top of some stairs, how to get down using a ramp, which he explains is "a sloping surface that goes from high to low."
Officials at Sesame Workshop insist that the introductions to scientific issues are effective. “This is working,” Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president, curriculum and content, told The Times.
The focus on science goes back to 2009, when the show was inspired by the 2005 book "Last Child in the Woods," about how children are out of touch with the natural world.
That led to the show creating the "Super Grover 2.0" segments, with the Muppet using springs, magnets and investigative powers to solve problems. Other shows are also aiming to teach similar subjects to children, with educational experts noting that even young children can comprehend basic scientific ideas, Jensen notes.
“They actually are already thinking about these things,” Kimberly Brenneman, an assistant research professor at Rutgers and an education adviser for PBS’s "Sid the Science Kid," told The Times.