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Building Resilience in Young Children the Sesame Street Way

Authors:
  • Rutgers Robert wood Johnson Medical School Medical School

Abstract and Figures

Sesame Workshop is a nonprofit organization involved with community outreach to support the educational needs of children and to foster healthy, strong families. The Educational Outreach Department creates needs-driven public service initiatives across multiple media platforms, leveraging relationships and distributing materials through a network of strategic partnerships in the United States and internationally. One such initiative is Little Children, BIG Challenges, which provides educators, service providers, families, and young children with the tools and resources necessary to overcome everyday challenges, transitions, and stressful life events. These resilience-enhancing tools and resources maximize the use of multimedia and technology and showcase the lovable Muppets of Sesame Street in various scenarios and specific experiences relevant to military and civilian families.
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181
S. Prince-Embury and D.H. Saklofske (eds.), Resilience Interventions
for Youth in Diverse Populations, The Springer Series on Human Exceptionality,
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-0542-3_9, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Theoretical and Research Bases
Resilience in Young Children
Young children face many challenges in their daily lives and are also directly
affected by stressful life situations that their families may experience. These chal-
lenges can vary in level of severity and in location within the bioecological system
of a child’s environment—each of which differentially impacts development
(Bronfenbrenner, 2005 ). At the child level, these challenges include learning how to
master a skill such as tying shoes or writing the letters of their name, to the more
interpersonal challenges of developing friendships or resolving confl icts with peers.
At the family level, some children are faced with more stressful situations such as
inconsistent parenting, fi nancial instability, divorce, or the incarceration of a parent.
At the community level, some children live in unsafe neighborhoods and attend
poor quality schools. More distal challenges that affect development involve institu-
tionalized prejudice, cultural incongruence, disparities in healthcare or access to
healthy foods (see Garcia Coll et al., 1996 ). Regardless of which level(s) these chal-
lenges stem from, challenges at any level impact other levels of a child’s environ-
ment bidirectionally and tend to initiate a rippling effect (Bronfenbrenner & Morris,
2006 ). These well-known proximal and distal risk factors are associated with nega-
tive developmental outcomes. Despite the challenges children encounter, however,
Chapter 9
Building Resilience in Young Children
the Sesame Street Way
Geraldine V. Oades-Sese , David Cohen , Jedediah W. P. Allen ,
and Michael Lewis
G. V. Oades-Sese (*) J. W. P. Allen M. Lewis
Department of Psychology , Bilkent University , Ankara , Turkey
e-mail: sesege@rwjms.rutgers.edu
D. Cohen
Sesame Street Workshop , New York , NY , USA
182
normally developing children are resilient or have the capacity to overcome these
adversities and succeed (Masten, Best, & Garmezy, 1990 ).
Protective factors are those that promote resilience and originate from multiple
sources found within the child, the family, and the community. These protective factors
are essential ingredients for mitigating the risk factors mentioned above and for build-
ing physical and mental health, emotional well-being, social relationships, and aca-
demic achievement. Masten and Garmezy’s ( 1985 ) “immunity-versus- vulnerability”
or the protective factors model is a theoretical model which suggests that certain per-
sonal attributes can either “dampen or amplify” the impact of stress. The more protec-
tive factors children have the better they are able to cope with life stressors.
Research studies document a number of protective factors in children which
include average or better intelligence, social competence, emotion regulation, an
internal locus of control, and a sense of self-worth (Masten et al., 1990 ; Oades-Sese,
Esquivel, Kaliski, & Maniatis, 2011 ; Rutter, 1990 ; Werner & Smith, 1992 ). Similar
protective factors have been identifi ed in economically disadvantaged children faced
with signifi cant barriers to success such as peer pressure, discrimination, and preju-
dice (Ford, 1994 ). Furthermore, determination, motivation, inner will, indepen-
dence, realistic aspirations, and a heightened sensitivity to others and the world
around them were also identifi ed as crucial protective factors in children (Reis,
Colbert, & Herbert, 2005 ).
In families, resilience is evidenced by close nurturing relationships that provide
emotional support and positive and open communication between family members
(McCubbin & McCubbin, 1996 ). Families who set high expectations, provide
routines, and instill core values are likely to foster resilience in children (Seccombe,
2002 ). Furthermore, trusting and supportive family relationships are the founda-
tions from which these essential child-level protective factors develop (Orthner,
Jones-Sanpei, & Williamson, 2004 ; Werner & Smith, 1989).
Protective factors that originate from the community include having access to basic
needs (i.e., clean air and water, food, adequate housing) safe neighborhoods as well as
equitable public policies that determine who is or is not eligible to receive benefi ts and
services. Community resources that offer support to children and their families con-
fronted with stressful life situations are key to building resilient families. Community
partnerships, in particular, comprised of families, schools, and organizations help
families combat adversity and systemic barriers in the community (Epstein & Sanders,
2000 ). Sesame Workshop is one such organization involved with community outreach
to support the educational needs of children and foster healthy and strong families.
In sum, challenges and stress are part of young children’s lives and the better they
are equipped to deal with these challenges, the more likely they are to succeed. Building
protective factors within the child, family, and the community is essential in developing
healthy and productive individuals who make lifelong contributions to society.
Learning as Active Engagement
From our developmental perspective, the ability to be resilient is not innately given
to some and not to others—with adequate guidance and support, every child has the
G.V. Oades-Sese et al.
183
capacity to become resilient. If development is generally understood as a matter of
children learning about how to learn (Bickhard, 2007 ), then such “meta-learning” is
what enables children to successfully adapt to changing situational and environ-
mental circumstances. In turn, the possibility of meta-learning means that children
can learn to become resilient. There are two general orientations that try to explain
how learning comes about that correspond to two general perspectives on the nature
of knowledge (Allen & Bickhard, 2011 ). For the fi rst, knowledge is fundamentally
passive and learning is a matter of having the world “impress” itself into the mind.
For the second, knowledge is fundamentally active and learning is a matter of hav-
ing to “construct” how to successfully interact with the world. While the former
view is dominant in contemporary developmental psychology (Allen & Bickhard,
2013 ), the latter view is more common in educational scholarship with its most
thorough development by Piaget ( 1954 ). For Piaget, knowledge was emergent from
action and therefore children needed to actively explore their environment in order
to learn about the world. Although direct action on the world becomes less relevant
as children develop through the preschool years, the active and constructive nature
of learning remains essential.
Taking the active and constructive nature of learning seriously means recogniz-
ing that, ultimately, it is the child who must do the learning—it is the child who
must create the “new” knowledge for themselves. Consequently, if learning is both
an effortful and creative process, then there are two major components involved
with facilitating such learning. The effortful part implies the need for motivation
and the creative part implies generating something that is cognitively new. While a
child’s motivation to learn can be harnessed through multiple methods, the crucial
point is whether or not what they are learning is interesting to them. Perhaps, the
easiest way to generate interest for preschoolers is through game-like activities that
involve interactions with other people. While not everything that a child needs to
learn can be made fun, when boring “facts” are learned in the service of developing
new abilities, we fi nd that children are more than willing participants. That is, fun
activities can be supplemented by harnessing children’s intrinsic motivation to
expand their own agency. Intrinsic motivation for agency is most evident in infancy
when the child must learn to coordinate actions in order to achieve a goal (e.g., grab-
bing an object) but that agentive motivation is present throughout development
(e.g., preschoolers who try to help their parents with household chores).
Our approach towards pedagogy places the locus of control within the child who
is engaged in the process of learning. Accordingly, our role as educators is not to
transfer information into empty and passive receptacles, but rather, to guide, con-
strain, and enable (i.e., scaffold) the generative activity of the child as they explore
and integrate their understanding of new information with what they have already
learned. The particular path that a child takes on their way to understanding new
concepts will be unique and that is part of the reason that genuine learning is so dif-
cult. Consequently, it is important to fi nd different mediums and situations that
will fi t the needs of different types of learners. Further, given that knowledge and
understanding comes in degrees, it is important for a pedagogical approach to fi nd
ways to challenge a child’s current understanding so that they might develop a
deeper and broader appreciation of what is to be learned. One of the best ways to
9 Sesame Street Resilience
184
accomplish this is to provide situations where children are able to use their new
knowledge across a broad range of contexts and situations.
Consistent with our active and constructivist approach towards learning, Sesame
Street provides children with a number of avenues to learn basic concepts essential
for school readiness. Through the use of songs, television and video, storybooks,
play dolls, coloring books, and other materials, Sesame Street provides children
with a smorgasbord of resources from which to learn. The multiple contexts and
settings in which content is available for children to explore new ideas enables them
to actively construct an integrated understanding of the material. Further, Sesame
Street materials are fun and engaging which means that children are motivated to
learn about the content while also developing their social and emotional competen-
cies. Many of the Sesame Street activities are social in nature which provides oppor-
tunities for children to engage in meaningful social interactions. In addition, the
world of Sesame Street and its lovable characters are a part of our commonly shared
culture. This commonality provides opportunities for children and adults to partici-
pate in social realities that extend beyond any particular interaction. In short, Sesame
Street provides children with both the opportunity and motivation to learn new con-
tent while also developing their ability as social participants.
Role of Emotions in Learning
An important factor that needs to be addressed in relation to intrinsic motivation is
the role of emotions in children’s learning (Oades-Sese, Matthews, & Lewis, 2014 ).
Emotions are fundamentally important in cognitive processes that contribute to how
we learn such as perception, attention, memory, decision-making, and problem-
solving skills (Clore & Huntsinger, 2007 ; Pekrun, 2011 ). Positive emotions such as
enjoyment of learning and pride have been linked to intrinsic motivation and inter-
est in students across all ages, while negative emotions such as anxiety, shame, and
boredom can hamper students’ motivation to learn and affect their performance
(Pekrun, 2011 ). While children’s experiences in school have an effect on their emo-
tions and performance, experiences at home with parents are also important. Parents,
after all, are not only the initial determiners of children’s achievement behavior
(Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children & Eccles, 1997 ), but
they are also important in terms of children’s emotional life which affect their aca-
demic performance. Parental behaviors, specifi cally verbal comments about chil-
dren’s behaviors, are likely to have a long-term impact on how children orient to
learning tasks and respond to success or failure (Alessandri & Lewis, 1996 ; Lewis,
1992 ). A positive sense of self develops when parent–child interactions are positive
and reaffi rming (Kaufman, 1992 ). Specifi cally, verbal comments that refer to
acknowledgement of effort, strategy, and persistence may allow for a fuller recogni-
tion of achievement, which leads towards a mastery orientation. This is in contrast
to verbal comments that focus on the global self such as “You are smart!” This is
important in terms of when failures and successes occur in daily life. When failure
is due to lack of effort or poor strategy, children are able to recover from failure by
G.V. Oades-Sese et al.
185
putting more effort or applying a better strategy (Oades-Sese et al., 2014 ). This is in
contrast to children who blame themselves (I am dumb) for the failure. In this
instance, children feel helpless because of their belief that they inherently lack the
cognitive capacity to succeed. Furthermore, this can be applied to verbal comments
provided by teachers in schools. Therefore, interventions that focus on building
positive and nurturing parent–child or teacher–child relationships and communica-
tions, fostering positive emotions, and providing problem-solving strategies (i.e.,
ask for help, try again, study more) that children can use when faced with daily or
life challenges are essential tools in building resilience and academic success.
Sesame Street’s Little Children, Big Challenges Initiative
One of theinitiatives that the Educational Outreach department at Sesame Workshop
embarked upon was to help build strong and healthy families. The resilience initia-
tive provides families and their young children (ages 5–8) with the tools and resources
necessary to overcome everyday challenges, transitions, and stressful life events.
These tools and resources maximize the use of multimedia and technology and
showcase the lovable Muppets of Sesame Street in various scenarios and specifi c
experiences relevant to military and civilian families. These resources include print
and online materials (e.g., parent guides, educator’s guide, storybooks) for primary
caregivers and child care providers of young children with information and activi-
ties, digital media (apps), and a Sesame Street DVD for caregivers and children to
view together. The content of the materials, developed with the help of an advisory
panel and focus groups, targets the fundamental skills necessary to overcome chal-
lenges faced at home, school, and in the community. The materials focus on the core
competencies of expressing and managing feelings, coping with frustration, building
a self-concept, developing problem-solving skills, and fostering perseverance
(Brooks & Goldstein, 2001 ; Eiesnberg et al., 1997 ; Greenberg, 2006 ; Masten, 1994 ).
The goals of Little Children, Big Challenges are to:
Foster children’s core competencies and model effective ways for young children
to confront both diffi cult everyday situations and challenging circumstances by
drawing on these skills (e.g., videos of the Sesame Street characters modeling the
appropriate problem-solving steps of “breath, think, do”).
Help parents, caregivers, educators , and other professionals by providing specifi c
activities and ways on how to communicate with their young child and thereby
foster resilience skills that will equip children to effectively express emotions,
develop empathy for others, confront setbacks, solve problems, have a positive
sense of self, and persevere.
Provide support and resources to help children and families cope with the
uniquely challenging situations of bullying, divorce, relocation, and incarcera-
tion of a parent as well as to help educators build resilience skills in children to
deal effectively with challenging situations that occur in school. For example,
showing children how drawing or writing letters can maintain contact with an
incarcerated parent.
9 Sesame Street Resilience
186
By providing the community (i.e., parents, teachers, caregivers, educators,
professionals) with these necessary tools and resources, Sesame Workshop is able
to contribute to and foster the successful development of children.
Brief History of Sesame Street
Conceived in the 1960s during Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” Sesame Street
was designed as an experiment to test whether or not an entertaining television show
could be used as a tool to educate young children. The specifi c aim of the show was
to help children from low-income families prepare for school. Today, Sesame Street,
with its beloved Muppet characters, has aired in over 140 countries, and has
expanded beyond television to include books, radio, interactive and online media,
and community outreach initiatives. As some have noted, Sesame Street has evolved
into “the longest street in the world.
As it turns out, the founders were right—the experiment worked. Evidence from
several early evaluations indicated that Sesame Street viewers outperformed their
non-viewing peers on a range of cognitive, academic, and socio-emotional mea-
sures (Wright et al., 2001 ). In particular, longitudinal studies have also shown that
children who were frequent Sesame Street viewers at age two scored higher on
standardized tests of school readiness in kindergarten than less-frequent or non-
viewers and that frequent Sesame Street viewing in preschool is associated with
higher high-school grade point averages even when controlling for several demo-
graphic factors (Anderson, Huston, Schmitt, Linebarger, & Wright, 2001 ). One
recent study found that children in preschool classrooms, which participated in a
media-rich curriculum incorporating public television video and games (from
Sesame Street, Super Why and Between the Lions), developed the early literacy
skills critical for success in school. These foundational skills—being able to name
letters, knowing the sounds associated with those letters, and understanding basic
concepts about stories and print—all increased among the 4- and 5-year-olds in the
study (Penuel et al., 2012 ). Other studies have found that children who viewed
Sesame Street segments also had the highest level of prosocial behaviors during
planned and structured activities and were lowest in antisocial behaviors during free
play (Zielinska & Chambers, 1995 ).
Community Outreach
The Educational Outreach department within Sesame Workshop has been especially
instrumental in the development and distribution of content, particularly to low-
income families. The Educational Outreach department is able to specifi cally meet
the needs of families with young children with the greatest need by getting resources
into the hands of these families, working with these families and advisors (i.e., pol-
icy makers, educators, developmental psychologists) during the development of
G.V. Oades-Sese et al.
187
resources to determine issues of particular urgency and to ensure resources are appeal-
ing, useful, and relevant. Effectively and directly reaching families and children in
need is accomplished in part by involving key national organizations as the resources
are being developed, thereby ensuring that the resources can be easily integrated into
these organizations’ delivery systems (Sesame Workshop, 1983 ).
During Sesame Workshop’s early years, the primary goal of Educational
Outreach (then called “Community Education Services”) was to raise awareness
among low-income and underserved families in inner-city neighborhoods and rural
America about the educational value of Sesame Street, and instruct these families on
how they could make the most out of the Sesame Street viewing experience. This
task was accomplished at a community-based grassroots level, through house-to-
house canvassing, trainings at Head Start programs and other publicly funded child
care programs, and workshops at parent–teacher meetings, community events,
church groups, and other neighborhood programs.
Once Sesame Street became better known as a positive addition to children’s
daily television fare, Educational Outreach shifted its focus from solely building
viewership to utilizing the resources at Sesame Workshop to engage in topic areas
and initiatives addressing the needs of families and children experiencing the effects
of ongoing poverty. These initiatives also reached out to child care providers to use
these outreach materials as a springboard for hands-on and other activities that
addressed children’s cognitive, health, and/or social and emotional development, as
well as family engagement in their children’s overall well-being. Additionally,
training programs served to introduce providers to the outreach resources, and fur-
nished support for integrating these resources as a vital tool for their programs
(Yotive & Fisch, 2001 ).
Outreach efforts to reach children in need, wherever they may reside, led to initia-
tives in some unexpected settings. For example, outreach initiatives were created for
migrant camps, which allowed providers to incorporate Sesame Street materials into
their curricula while the children’s parents worked as migrant laborers in nearby
elds. Sesame Street centers were established in federal prisons to provide facilities in
which young children could engage in songs, games, and other educational activities
while their parents visited relatives who were incarcerated (Yotive & Fisch, 2001 ).
Educational Outreach continues to create needs-driven public service initiatives
across multiple media platforms, leveraging relationships and distributing materials
through a network of strategic partnerships in the United States and around the
world. As before, outreach initiatives are driven by local needs and urgencies. Most
outreach programs and the materials produced for them stem from Sesame Street or
its international variations, making creative use of the Sesame Street characters,
formats, and educational curricula. Most domestic projects are produced in both
English and Spanish (and, in some additional languages, such as Mandarin and
Arabic), in order to obtain maximum reach. Materials developed for the various
initiatives are distributed free of charge through a wide domestic and international
network of organizations that reach into the community via schools, child care pro-
grams, libraries, public television stations, health care programs, literacy programs,
ethnic advocacy organizations, and other groups that serve children and families.
9 Sesame Street Resilience
188
The success of the Workshop’s content and initiatives is often credited to the
synergy of a variety of expertise and an iterative feedback process. To set goals, estab-
lish curricula, and monitor the impact of their projects, Sesame Workshop’s founders
created (the “Sesame Workshop Model”) involving a dynamic collaboration among
educators, researchers, and media producers (Mielke, 1990 ). A project typically
begins with a series of advisory panels, which are gathered to develop the educational
goals for a particular project, followed by a period of time in which educators write
curricula based on these goals. These curricula are then used by writers and producers
as a guide when creating the program or content. An integral part of this model is the
formative research process. Formative research usually begins by conducting needs
assessments examining current research being conducted with children and families
around the curriculum topic being explored, and conducting research with children
and families to gauge the extent of their knowledge of the curriculum topic. This
phase aids writers and producers on how to approach the educational goals, determin-
ing which goals are of greatest importance, and how the educational content should
be best presented. Once drafts of print or video materials are available, they are pre-
sented to children (and/or their caregivers if they are also the intended audience) to
gauge comprehension and appeal. The feedback from children and caregivers is then
used to inform any changes before the fi nal production of content. Finally, an evalua-
tion may be conducted to assess whether the content has the desired impact.
Role of Muppets
Role of Puppets/Muppets in Intervention Design
Puppets have been a part of human history since ancient times as means of self-
expression (Esquivel, Oades-Sese, & Jarvis, 2010 ). In Ancient Egypt, puppets were
jointed and made from terracotta, while shadow puppets in China were made of rod
and animal skin. In Turkey, they were three-dimensional and articulated to refl ect
the natural movements of people. Puppets (e.g., sock puppets, marionettes, hand
puppets) have evolved and made their way into public television with Howdy
Doody; Kukla, Fran, and Ollie; Sherlock from the Magic Garden; Lamb Chop; Mr.
Rogers’ King Friday XIII, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, and Henrietta Pussycat; Jim
Henson’s Kermit and Miss Piggy to the lovable Sesame Street characters of Elmo,
Grover, Oscar the Grouch, Rosita, Count von Count, and many more.
Although the research literature is sparse, the use of puppets has been widely doc-
umented to be effective in a variety of clinical applications and interventions. For
example, puppets were found to help hospitalized children cope with illness and sepa-
ration from parents (Woltmann, 1940 ) and to help abused or traumatized children feel
more comfortable to play out their experiences than interacting directly with a thera-
pist. This is similar to the spontaneous way children use family dolls or action fi gures
to play out their thoughts, feelings, anxiety, and fears (Carter,
1987 ; Seinfeld, 1989 ).
Children identify with puppets and project their feelings onto them. This allows chil-
dren to depersonalize their feelings and share them indirectly with a therapist.
G.V. Oades-Sese et al.
189
Puppets that refl ect or represent cultural values and traditions are shown to be
more effective for children, especially for children from culturally and linguistically
diverse backgrounds. For example, because Native Americans value storytelling
and humor, clown-like fi gures are often found in their folklore. Fables and fairytales
across cultures often feature animal characters that teach a lesson or feature positive
or negative traits. Therefore, animal puppets are often used during storytelling with
children (Herring & Meggert, 1994 ). In the educational and clinical setting, multi-
cultural puppets can be very effective in teaching children about feelings, emotional
literacy, confl ict resolution, and prosocial skills (Esquivel et al., 2010 ).
In the fi eld, the fi rst author has found puppets “of color” useful in training teach-
ers how to teach preschool children confl ict resolution or problem-solving skills in
their classrooms; both teachers and children are often more engaged and motivated
to learn. Multicultural puppets are also used to teach children about acceptance and
tolerance for differences. The “Kids on the Block” puppet program (Aiello, 1988 ) is
an example that teaches nondisabled children to understand and appreciate those
who with physical and/or mental challenges. Puppets can also be used to represent
a variety of health conditions, disabilities, or situations such as cerebral palsy, men-
tal retardation, learning problems, parental incarceration, and divorce.
Many evidence-based interventions in early childhood incorporate puppets to
build social skills, emotional understanding, interpersonal problem-solving skills,
and literacy (Dunlap & Powell, 2009 ). Examples of these interventions include Al’s
Pals (Wingspan, 1999 ), Incredible Years: Dina Dinosaur Classroom Curriculum
(Webster-Stratton, 2002 ), Preschool PATHS (Domitrovich, Greenberg, Kusche, &
Cortes, 2004 ), Second Step (Committee for Children, 1991 ), and Preschool I Can
Problem Solve (Shure, 2000 ). Use of puppets in an intervention ensures sustained
interest, active engagement, and provides a medium to externalize and objectify
feelings and diffi cult life situations.
Sesame Street Muppets
Sesame Street’s Muppets have been delighting children for decades. Muppets have
been instrumental in helping Sesame Workshop engage and teach children in differ-
ent curriculum areas and countries. The Muppets make it possible to introduce sen-
sitive subjects, the one that may be deemed too sensitive to attempt with young
children in a video or television show. Their versatility and diversity enable these
characters to broach diffi cult or complex topics, such as divorce or death of a loved
one, in age appropriate ways that help preschoolers to cope.
Initially conceived as a way to help maintain children’s attention to the curricu-
lum goals that Sesame Street was trying to teach, the Muppets were an ideal tool for
engaging children and conveying information. Muppets could consistently remain
in character across episodes and also were able to portray more exaggerated and
clearer roles than human characters (Lesser,
1974 ). Their physical design, of softer
materials such as foam, enables these puppets to be more expressive than traditional
puppets. Their eyes and face are constructed in a unique fashion, to form a “magic
9 Sesame Street Resilience
190
triangle,” whereby pupil’s of the Muppet’s eyes focus slightly inwards, creating a
triangle with the Muppet’s nose. This positioning of the pupils, combined with the
curvature of the face makes the Muppet appear to be focusing directly on the camera
and the children watching (Gikow, 2009 ). These unique qualities, as well as their
familiarity allow the Sesame Street Muppets to speak to children in ways that other-
wise might not be possible. Through their endearing personalities and their particu-
lar appearance, they have been able to teach children all over the world about
tolerance, literacy, health and hygiene, and self-esteem.
Multimedia and Technology
Role of Multimedia Technology
In general, multimedia and technology approaches to education are well suited to a
constructivist perspective on learning (Mayer, Moreno, Boire, & Vagge, 1999 ).
Multimedia and technology approaches do not just repeat the same information in
different formats, like Morse code and the alphabet, but rather, the multiple modes of
presentation provide unique information that can converge to enable a more compre-
hensive and a more thoroughly integrated understanding of the content. In the past,
technology-based interventions tended to mean using computers—both for the pre-
sentation of material and for student-guided learning (Ringstaff & Kelley, 2002 ). The
widespread availability of the Internet starting in the mid 1990s transformed the edu-
cational use of computers into a resource that is much more dynamic, interactive, and
multipurpose than “stand-alone drill-and-practice” systems (Waxman, Lin, & Michko,
2003 ). The current ensemble of multimedia devices available for use in the classroom
has further expanded the scope and depth of technology-based interventions.
Multimedia environments can be broadly defi ned as communications involving
multiple modes of presentation. In the simplest case, theses modes of presentation
can include different modalities as with the combination of visual and verbal formats
in a narrated fi lm. More sophisticated multimedia environments, however, are also
going to include some degree of interactivity with both the materials and with other
people. For example, the turn-taking involved with learning a new song or game or
reading a new storybook. From our perspective, what is most important about a
multimedia environment is that there are a variety of ways in which different aspects
of the content can be presented and the degree to which children are encouraged to
actively engage with such content either directly or indirectly with other people.
Sesame Workshop capitalizes on multimedia and technology through television,
DVDs, mobile apps, and Internet resources, but it also utilizes storybooks and activ-
ities that involve interactions with other people. Sesame Workshop’s use of a multi-
media approach is well suited to capitalize on both the cognitive and motivational
aspects of learning. Cognitively, using a multimedia approach means that we are
able to accommodate many of the individual differences in the learning styles of
children, while also reinforcing different aspects of the same basic content across
multiple contexts. Motivationally, the inherent appeal of the Muppet characters and
G.V. Oades-Sese et al.
191
the interest children have in using various forms of technology helps them attend to,
and engage with, the content of the material being presented. Further, past research
has found that less formal presentation styles are better able to promote learning in
multimedia environments (Moreno & Mayer, 2007 )—a feature that is exemplifi ed
by the friendly and conversational presentation style of the Muppet characters.
Effectiveness of Technology-Based Interventions
Evaluating the effectiveness of technology-based interventions in the classroom is
diffi cult given the large variability in both the purposes of the interventions and the
multiple varieties of implementations (Cook, Garside, Levinson, Dupras, &
Montori, 2010 ). While not all technology-based interventions are effective at show-
ing gains relative to control groups, there does not seem to be any negative effects
from such research. This is important because optimizing interventions requires
determining what does not work as much as it involves fi guring out what does work.
Further, there does not seem to be any “silver bullet” intervention principles or tech-
niques that will apply across all contexts and for all purposes. Thus, research that
has ruled out intervention principles and techniques in one area may be safely stud-
ied in another area without negatively impacting children’s education.
The effect of multimedia-enhanced educational instruction on the vocabulary
growth of young children has been mixed for both native English speakers and for
English Language Learners (Silverman & Hines, 2009 ). What does seem to be clear
is that viewing education television in the classroom without additional elaboration
or reinforcement does not provide gains in vocabulary growth for either native
English speakers or for Spanish–English bilinguals (Linebarger, Kosanic,
Greenwood, & Doku, 2004 ; Uchikoshi, 2006 ). Therefore, the use of multimedia in
the classroom in conjunction with teacher interaction, guidance, and feedback are
essential in order to realize the promise of multimedia learning environments.
We are currently assessing whether the Little Children, Big Challenges DVDs,
mobile apps, and Internet resources are being utilized by parents and teachers and
whether these multimedia resources are effective in building close parent–child
relationships, emotional knowledge and understanding, emotional literacy, and
problem-solving skills. We are also evaluating whether these resources help chil-
dren and their families better prepare for future challenges.
Resilience-Based Intervention
Theory of Change
The Theory of Change plays an important role in intervention development and
provides a visual representation of the pathway to change. It provides a roadmap to
achieve the goal(s) of the intervention and charts out destinations of progress.
9 Sesame Street Resilience
192
The Theory of Change visual diagram (see Fig. 9.1 ) depicts the Childhood Resilience
Initiative strategies and intended results. Partnerships with researchers, experts,
community organizations, educators, and service providers are key ingredients to
developing and disseminating the intervention. The short-term goals of the initiative
are to (a) empower adults who are signifi cant in children’s lives (i.e., parents, care-
givers, educators) by increasing their awareness and knowledge about the protective
factors that underlie resilience, (b) provide these adults and the community with
Fig. 9.1 Theory of change for the Sesame Workshop’s childhood resilience initiative
G.V. Oades-Sese et al.
193
free and accessible resources to develop the skills for “how” to promote resilience
in multiple contexts, and, (c) improve the attitudes, behaviors, and skills that are
necessary for children to overcome challenging situations. Successful achievement
of these short-term goals should lead to the long-term goal of building strong,
healthy, and successful children.
The assumptions that underlie the initiative’s Theory of Change infl uence the
road-map’s design. These assumptions are as follows:
Research is a valuable source of information that contributes to the design and
development of an intervention.
Expertise and leaders, at multiple levels in the community, help defi ne and iden-
tify important protective factors that underlie resilience in young children.
Multimedia and technology are able to engage learners with different learning
styles, abilities, and cultural backgrounds.
By providing the necessary tools to primary caregivers, they are more likely to
be successful in building healthy and resilient children.
Well-designed program evaluation increases learning and development for future
projects and infl uences the effectiveness of the funders’ investments.
Little Children, Big Challenges Multimedia Toolkits
There are three multimedia toolkits that were developed by Sesame Workshop as
part of the Little Children, Big Challenges initiative. While two of them are focused
on the specifi c life challenges of divorce (Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce)
and incarceration (Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration), the third multi-
media toolkit (Little Children, Big Challenges: General Resilience) is focused on
building general resilience for dealing with life’s more day-to-day challenges at
home and school. The divorce and incarceration toolkits were designed to be used
by parents at home and the general resilience toolkit was designed to be used by
preschool teachers in the classroom and by parents at home. Based on the recom-
mendations of the initiative’s advisory board, four protective factors were empha-
sized in the toolkits: circle of care (attachment), sense of self, emotional
understanding and knowledge, and problem-solving skills. These protective factors
underlie social–emotional and academic resilience in young children.
The core of the two parent multimedia toolkits is a Sesame Street DVD, parent
guidebook, and children’s storybook. The Sesame Street DVD features a Muppet
story and live-action fi lms with real families sharing their experiences around some
of life’s challenging situations (e.g., divorce, incarceration of a parent). The Muppet
story uses the familiar characters from Sesame Street to introduce young children to
the type of challenging situation that is the focus of that particular toolkit. The pri-
mary purpose of the Muppet story is to help children understand what it means for
their parents to be in the situation that they are in and that it is alright to have this
difference from other families. In this way, the classic Muppet methodology is used
to both explain the meaning of the challenging situation (i.e., divorce, incarceration)
9 Sesame Street Resilience
194
and to render any stigma about that type of situation inert. The parent guidebook has
a number of tips and activities about how parents can engage with their children on
the diffi cult topic that they are dealing with. For example, the parent guide addresses
how to explain “divorce” or “incarceration” in developmentally appropriate ways.
The storybooks include characters who are going through the same challenging
situation as the child and provide parents with a natural setting to talk about their
own situation as they read and reread the storybook with their children. For exam-
ple, the storybook of the divorce/separation toolkit, Two-Hug Day , depicts Niko’s
experiences of going back and forth between the homes of his divorced parents.
The general resilience classroom toolkit is for use by preschool teachers in the
classroom and includes a Sesame Street DVD featuring Muppet stories about day-
to- day challenges that young children might face at school (e.g., saying goodbye at
morning drop off, making new friends). The Muppet stories try to help children
understand that these situations are a regular part of life and that they can learn
strategies to help them gain some agency in the situation and resolve their discom-
fort. The general resilience toolkit also includes an education curriculum with 12
weeks of lessons and activities. The focus of the curriculum is on teaching children
about different emotions beyond the basic ones (i.e., happy, sad, mad) and how to
correctly identify and resolve interpersonal confl ict situations. Children are taught
to expand their emotion vocabulary to include words such as thrilled, ecstatic, dis-
appointed, frustrated, furious, and miserable; and to use the steps of Breathe, Think,
and Do to solve problems. There is also a parent version of this toolkit.
The different toolkits also make use of other multimedia materials that can be
accessed through the Internet and specially designed mobile apps. Additional tips
for parents and activities for children can be downloaded from the Internet. Webinars
and online discussion sessions geared towards families and service providers are
also available. Finally, Facebook pages have been created to help parents build a
community of people who are all dealing with some of the same types of challeng-
ing issues. In sum, Little Children, Big Challenges includes multiple resources for
helping children build resilience. The combination of both parent and teacher tool-
kits capitalizes on efforts aimed at a more holistic and comprehensive approach
towards intervention research. These toolkits are made available free to parents,
educators, and the community at www.sesamestreet.org . These toolkits can be used
as a supplement to any social–emotional curriculum at school or used individually
by parents with their children at home.
The Role of Research, Accountability, and Impact Evaluation
Research and outcome evaluations are important in determining the effect of an
intervention. Findings from research can help make decisions about the future of
interventions as well as serve as an accountability measure to determine if
the funders’ investments have been translated to effective social and educational
interventions (Owen,
2007 ). Currently, we are conducting three research studies
to determine the effectiveness of the Little Children, Big Challenges multimedia
G.V. Oades-Sese et al.
195
toolkits in building resilience in young children and their families. These studies
include two parent intervention studies (i.e., Sesame Street Resilience Project:
Divorce and Separation and Sesame Street Resilience Project: Families Dealing
with an Incarcerated Parent) and a school-based intervention study (Sesame Street
Resilience Project: General Resilience Classroom Study). The following paragraphs
provide an overview of these studies.
Building Resilience in Families Dealing with Divorce
or Separation
The purpose of the Sesame Street Resilience Project: Divorce and Separation is to
determine the effectiveness of Sesame Street’s multimedia toolkit, Little Children,
Big Challenges: Divorce (see Fig. 9.2 ). The toolkit is designed to proactively help
children build resilience factors during the challenging situation of divorce/separa-
tion. The aims of the toolkit are to: (a) provide children (ages 2–8) with the tools and
language necessary to help them cope with and understand divorce at an age-
appropriate level, (b) aid families in communicating and expressing feelings con-
cerning the divorce, (c) teach children a feelings vocabulary, (d) provide parent tips
such as managing strong emotions, dealing with blended families, and reducing
stress, and (e) reassure children that they will be cared for, and that—together with
their family—they can learn ways to adjust to their new life.
The Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce toolkit fosters three key protective
factors that include attachment relationships (circle of care), emotional
Fig. 9.2 Sesame Street’s Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce Toolkit
9 Sesame Street Resilience
196
understanding, and sense of self. These factors have been identifi ed in the research
literature and highlighted by Sesame Workshop because they summarize the main
skills that are crucial in young children’s development of resilience. These resil-
ience factors are defi ned as follows:
Circle of care is a network of secure attachment relationships that are crucial to
children’s emotional growth which include parents, teachers, relatives, and other
trusted adults.
Emotional understanding involves young children’s ability to verbally label and
express emotions via a feelings vocabulary, and to learn how to regulate and cope
with emotions. In turn, these skills contribute to the development of empathy.
Sense of self concerns young children’s self-awareness of what they can and can-
not do (abilities), their likes and dislikes, and personal characteristics. Children
are able to develop self-confi dence as they learn to value their unique qualities,
to feel pride in their achievements, and to take on new challenges.
Participants in this 6-week study include 150 divorced or separated (civilian and
military) parents and their children from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic back-
grounds from New Jersey. Participants were recruited from over 70 preschools and
Head Start centers and community organizations and randomly assigned to either
the intervention or control group. The pre- and posttest study assesses parent satis-
faction with and attitudes towards the toolkit, as well as their perceptions of the
toolkit’s impact on their child’s developmental outcomes. We expect to fi nd that the
toolkit was effective in fostering parent–child relationships, communications about
feelings surrounding the divorce or separation, and improved child behaviors.
Building Resilience in Families with an Incarcerated Parent
The purpose of the Sesame Street Resilience Project: Families Dealing with an
Incarcerated Parent is to determine the effectiveness of Sesame Streets multimedia
toolkit (English and Spanish versions)— Little Children, Big Challenges:
Incarceration (see Fig. 9.3 ). The toolkit is designed to proactively help caregivers
and children build resilience during the incarceration of a parent. The aims of the
toolkit are to: (a) provide children (ages 6–8) with the tools and language necessary
to help them cope with and understand incarceration at an age-appropriate level, (b)
aid families in communicating and expressing feelings concerning the incarcera-
tion, (c) teach children a feelings vocabulary, (d) provide a parent or caregiver tips
that are helpful regarding the incarceration, and (e) reassure children that they will
be cared for, and that—together with their family—they can learn ways to adjust to
their new life. Similar to the divorce and separation toolkit, the toolkit fosters three
key protective factors that include attachment relationships (circle of care), emo-
tional understanding, and sense of self.
Participants in this 6-week study include 100 parents or caregivers with young
children who have an incarcerated parent from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic
G.V. Oades-Sese et al.
197
backgrounds from New Jersey. Participants were recruited from over 70 preschools
and Head Start centers, community organizations, and state prisons. Participants
were randomly assigned to either the intervention or control group. The pre- and
posttest study assesses parent satisfaction with and attitudes towards the toolkit, as
well as their perceptions of the impact of the toolkit on their child’s developmental
outcomes. We expect to fi nd that the toolkit was effective in educating parents and
caregivers on how to cope with this stressful life situation, building parent- or care-
giver–child relationships, communicating about feelings surrounding the incarcera-
tion of a parent, and improving child behaviors.
Building Resilience in Schools
The purpose of the Sesame Street Resilience Project: General Resilience Classroom
Study is to determine the effectiveness of the multimedia toolkit, Little Children,
Big Challenges: General Resilience. The aims of the toolkit are to: (a) provide
teachers with the resources that they need to help children cope with and understand
challenging situations at an age-appropriate level, (b) help children to communicate
and express their feelings around challenging issues, (c) help children learn a feel-
ings vocabulary, (d) foster the development of children’s emotional competence in
terms of their emotional understanding, emotional management and regulation, and
interpersonal problem-solving skills. The Little Children, Big Challenges: General
Resilience toolkit fosters four key protective factors that include circle of care, emo-
tional understanding, sense of self, and problem-solving skills.
Fig. 9.3 Sesame Street’s Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration Toolkit
9 Sesame Street Resilience
198
Participants in this study include 700 children (ages 3–5), 700 parents, and 140
teachers from Head Start centers, state preschools, and military child development
centers in San Diego, California. Participants are from diverse socioeconomic and
ethnic backgrounds. Approximately, 50 schools were randomly assigned to either
the intervention or control group. Teachers will be provided with a one-day training
workshop to demonstrate how to implement the toolkit in the classroom as well as
how to integrate the 10–15 min Sesame Street activities into their curriculum. The
toolkit will be implemented daily for 12 weeks in 140 classrooms and two class-
room fi delity checks will be conducted by trained research assistants. Pre- and post-
intervention data will be collected through direct assessment of randomly selected
children in each classroom as well as parent data to determine if skills acquired in
the classroom generalize to the home. Teachers’ perceptions of children’s social–
emotional development as well as their attitudes, behaviors, and satisfaction regard-
ing the toolkit will be evaluated. We expect to fi nd that the Little Children, Big
Challenges: General Resilience toolkit was effective in building children’s emo-
tional knowledge and understanding, emotional literacy, problem-solving skills,
and social competence.
Conclusion
In closing, the overarching message that children and families learn from Little
Children, Big Challenges is effectively communicated by Big Bird, Cookie Monster,
and Elmo through a song created for the initiative called the “What We Are Anthem.”
The Youtube link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDWFT3VzOhw . Here is
an excerpt of the anthem:
And nothing’s gonna bring us down.
Never giving up.
Gotta go.
Because we know we’ll keep getting stronger.
And what we are is helpful!
And what we are is brave!
What we are is thoughtful!
What we are is special!
What we are is confi dent!
There is nothing we cannot achieve because this is what we believe in…Because we know
we’ll keep getting stronger.
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9 Sesame Street Resilience
... Medical providers can direct patients and families to books with scripts, 69,72,77,80 picture books for younger children, 70,73,78,81 and online tools and applications, including Sesame Workshop. 71,72,74,75,79,80,82,83 In addition, mindfulness practices can enhance other domains of wellness. For example, Progressive Muscle Relaxation and other meditations can help worried children fall asleep. ...
... Park prescriptions were found to increase park visits, decrease perceived stress and loneliness, increase physical activity, decrease cortisol levels, and increase resilience. 75,76,78,79,83,84,86,87 Overall, when discussing and offering anticipatory guidance and interventions for toxic stress with children and families, a hopeful approach is critical. Although primary care medical providers are not expected to be social workers, psychologists, or psychiatrists, ACEs impact health and are, therefore, within the domain of anticipatory guidance to help mitigate and heal toxic stress. ...
... Slopen and colleagues 90 conducted a systematic review of interventions to improve cortisol regulation in children. 80,83,87 They found 18 articles that supported evidence for mental health focused interventions lowering cortisol levels. For example, Carlson and Earls 91 implemented a social and Adverse Childhood Experiences educational enrichment program for children for 13 months and found that the intervention group had lower noontime cortisol compared with controls. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are associated with behavioral, mental, and clinical outcomes in children. Tools that are easy to incorporate into pediatric practice, effectively screen for adversities, and identify children at high risk for poor outcomes are lacking. Objective: To examine the relationship between caregiver-reported child ACEs and related life events with health outcomes. Participants and setting: Participants (0-11 years) were recruited from the University of California San Francisco Benioff's Children Hospital Oakland Primary Care Clinic. There were 367 participants randomized. Methods: Participants were randomized 1:1:1 to item-level (item response), aggregate-level (total number of exposures), or no screening for ACEs (control arm) with the PEdiatric ACEs and Related Life Event Screener (PEARLS). We assessed 10 ACE categories capturing abuse, neglect, and household challenges, as well as 7 additional categories. Multivariable regression models were conducted. Results: Participants reported a median of 2 (IQR 1-5) adversities with 76 % (n = 279) reporting at least one adversity; participants in the aggregate-level screening arm, on average, disclosed 1 additional adversity compared to item-level screening (p = 0.01). Higher PEARLS scores were associated with poorer perceived child general health (adjusted B = -0.94, 95 %CI: -1.26, -0.62) and Global Executive Functioning (adjusted B = 1.99, 95 %CI: 1.51, 2.46), and greater odds of stomachaches (aOR 1.14; 95 %CI: 1.04-1.25) and asthma (aOR 1.08; 95 %CI 1.00, 1.17). Associations did not differ by screening arm. Conclusion: In a high-risk pediatric population, ACEs and other childhood adversities remain an independent predictor of poor health. Increased efforts to screen and address early-life adversity are necessary.
... Medical providers can direct patients and families to books with scripts, 69,72,77,80 picture books for younger children, 70,73,78,81 and online tools and applications, including Sesame Workshop. 71,72,74,75,79,80,82,83 In addition, mindfulness practices can enhance other domains of wellness. For example, Progressive Muscle Relaxation and other meditations can help worried children fall asleep. ...
... Park prescriptions were found to increase park visits, decrease perceived stress and loneliness, increase physical activity, decrease cortisol levels, and increase resilience. 75,76,78,79,83,84,86,87 Overall, when discussing and offering anticipatory guidance and interventions for toxic stress with children and families, a hopeful approach is critical. Although primary care medical providers are not expected to be social workers, psychologists, or psychiatrists, ACEs impact health and are, therefore, within the domain of anticipatory guidance to help mitigate and heal toxic stress. ...
... Slopen and colleagues 90 conducted a systematic review of interventions to improve cortisol regulation in children. 80,83,87 They found 18 articles that supported evidence for mental health focused interventions lowering cortisol levels. For example, Carlson and Earls 91 implemented a social and Adverse Childhood Experiences educational enrichment program for children for 13 months and found that the intervention group had lower noontime cortisol compared with controls. ...
Article
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic events that children experience before age 18 years. Studies have linked exposure to ACEs and negative health, and developmental and behavioral outcomes. Screening in pediatric medical settings provides a clear opportunity for early detection, intervention, and treatment. Providing anticipatory guidance on healthy relationships, sleep, exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, and nature is essential. Pediatric medical providers must screen and intervene. Primary care is the ideal setting for ACE screening because interacting with children and their families at regular intervals can allow patients and providers to develop a trusting relationship.
... An example of such a program is Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce. Oades-Sese,Cohen, Allen and Lewis (2014) in Resilience Interventions for Youth in Diverse Populations studied Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce, an interactive program by the Sesame Street Resilience Project and determined the following three key protective factors fostering resiliency in children of divorce, (1) attachment relationships (circle of care), (2) emotional understanding, and (3) sense of self. The aims of this well-researched intervention are as follows: (A) provide children (ages 2-8) with the tools and language necessary to help them cope with and understand divorce at an age-appropriate level, (b) aid families in communicating and expressing feelings concerning the divorce, (c) teach children a feelings vocabulary, (d) provide parent tips such as managing strong emotions, dealing with blended families, and reducing ...
Thesis
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This theoretical construction research paper explored the literature on the effects of parental divorce on children. A variety of disciplines were examined to establish a model of normative experiences that could provide a foundation for the development of an art therapy program to support children during this transition. The literature from a variety of disciplines was summarized to highlight the challenges experienced by children of divorced parents. A review of the field of art therapy identified art therapy approaches that could play a supportive role to mitigate challenges experienced by this population. Art therapy approaches used to treat trauma, anxiety, anger management, depression and, where possible, studies specific to children, were examined to determine appropriate and effective art therapy tools and/or directives applicable to group interventions. As a result, 10-week art therapy intervention program to be conducted in schools was designed to foster expression and improved resilience in children from families who have experienced divorce.
... Sesame Workshop is a long-recognized expert in developing materials that support the emotional well-being and resilience of young children and their families (Oades-Sese et al. 2014). Sesame has a demonstrated commitment to supporting military families, evidenced in its successful Talk, Listen, Connect (TLC) program, a three-part multimedia initiative regarding deployment, parental injury, and parental death ). ...
Article
Full-text available
Although transitioning out of the military can be stressful for everyone in the family, the children’s experience has received minimal attention in both clinical lore and research. This study is an evaluation of Sesame Workshop’s multimedia program for families who are transitioning out of the military into civilian life; the program is aimed at improving parents’ confidence and skills in assisting their children with the transition, and at improving young children’s transition-related adjustment. Via a randomized controlled trial design, we evaluated the utilization, acceptability, and impact of this free, online program with 200 military caregivers. Caregivers who received the Sesame program reported increased self-efficacy in helping their child cope with the transition (e.g., making new friends, talking with their child about leaving the military) compared to those assigned to the control condition. Further, caregivers in the intervention condition reported fewer overall child emotional and behavioral problems and a significant reduction in levels of hyperactivity/inattention in their children. Further, the primarily online modality of the Sesame program yielded high caregiver satisfaction and utilization; this approach may warrant further research as an effective means of reaching busy military families.
Chapter
In recent years a set of concepts that had originated in the lexicon of the layman has come to exert a powerful influence on scientific research in epidemiology, psychology, and psychopathology. Risk, protective factors, stress, vulnerability, and coping are now a significant part of a scientific agenda aimed at understanding the nature of etiological, maintenance, and outcome factors that influence the course of adaptation and maladaptation in human behavior. In many respects, these concepts and the research they engender capture an essential component of the emergent field of developmental psychopathology (Sroufe & Rutter, 1984). They focus attention on the precursors of disordered and nondisordered outcomes and on the concomitant issue of continuity-discontinuity in behavior from childhood to adult psychopathology. They speak to issues related to the attributes of vulnerable and stress-resistant individuals, their environments, and the interactions that predict successful and unsuccessful adaptation. And finally, because they emphasize the need to identify the factors and processes associated with disorder, competence, and recovery, they can lead in time to a body of knowledge essential to the development of effective prevention strategies for containing mental disorders.
Book
Developmental and child psychology remains a vital area in modern psychology. This comprehensive set covers a broad spectrum of developmenal issues, from the psychology of the infant, the family, abilities and disabilities, children's art, imagination, play, speech, mental development, perception, intelligence, mental health and education. In looking at areas which continue to be very important today, these volumes provide a fascinating look at how approaches and attitudes to children have changed over the years. The set includes nine volumes by key development psychologist Jean Piaget, as well as titles by Charlotte Buhler and Susan Isaacs.
Article
This article describes an interpersonal problem solving approach to the reduction and prevention of early high-risk behaviors such as aggression, inability to wait and cope with frustration, social withdrawal, and poor peer relations that predict later, more serious problems such as violence, substance abuse, depression, and school dropout. Our research is described that shows that as children as young as age four become more sensitive to their own and others' feelings, more aware of the consequences of their acts, and better able to think of alternative solutions to problems, the early high-risk behaviors can be reduced and prevented. As children move into the elementary grades, decreased emotional distraction also helps them concentrate more efficiently on academic lessons in school. This article describes how a specific intervention for teachers and other school personnel can teach children interpersonal problem solving skills, how the program can fit into the school day, flexibility in delivery of treatment, and other issues of implementation into the school day. Reference is also made to a companion program for parents, an important supplement in light of the national initiative for further parent involvement in the schools.
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This study investigates whether a curriculum supplement organized as a sequence of teacher-led literacy activities using digital content from public educational television programs can improve early literacy outcomes of low-income preschoolers. The study sample was 436 children in 80 preschool classrooms in California and New York. Preschool teachers were randomly assigned to implement either a 10-week media-rich early literacy intervention that employed clips from Sesame Street, Between the Lions, and SuperWhy! or to a comparison condition. The media-rich literacy supplement had positive impacts (+0.20≤d≤+0.55) on children's ability to recognize letters, sounds of letters and initial sounds of words, and children's concepts of story and print. The study findings show the potential for incorporating literacy content from public media programming into curriculum supplements supported by professional development to impact early literacy outcomes of low-income children.
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Many children, including the gifted, are at risk for underachievement, school failure, and otherwise not reaching their potential in school and in life. This is most often true of Black youth who face numerous social and cultural barriers to achievement. On the other hand, some youth do adapt to the many barriers to achievement and to the many stressors in their lives. This article explores the concept of resilience as it relates to gifted children, particularly gifted Black children. Also presented are recommendations for fostering resilience in these students and ensuring their success in school and life.