Sesame Street Focuses on STEM

December 22, 2009

Today’s Show is brought to you by the letters S, T, E, and M. The Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces the 40 year ongoing television show, Sesame Street has partnered with other organizations, such as the PNC foundation to invest over $7.5 million in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education for preschoolers. According to their press release, this program “will create a new mathematics initiative for preschool children as well as a two-year science initiative, which enables children to build their knowledge of the world around them through scientific inquiry.”

STEM is an extremely important part of the educational process, especially at early ages, when children are first learning to critically examine the world around them. As a result, the Sesame Workshop has decided to focus much of their coming 41st season on encouraging scientific inquiry with 13 shows centered around investigating such topics as thunderstorms, gravity, wind, rocks, and camouflage, as well as the different attributes of birds and bugs. A further 7 of the episodes will focus heavily on the development of mathematical skills, bringing the total number of episodes with STEM focus to 20 out of 26. And, although its popularity may have dropped somewhat from its heyday, Sesame Street still remains one of the most popular children’s shows in the United States, especially among preschoolers.

This initiative takes on special importance, however, because America has been falling behind other developed—and some developing—nations in the areas of science and mathematics education. The United States currently ranks 29th out of 57 in science education and 35th out of 57 in mathematics education, according to a 2006 study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Programme for International Student Assessment, which ranks the educational systems of 57 nations determined to have “high income” or “upper-middle income” economies. Countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Japan all rank quite high on the list, while the United States ranks right between Croatia and Lithuania. Most consider this ranking to be the premier source for comparative information regarding the educational systems of different countries, and clearly the United States is lagging far behind.

The Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy commends the Sesame Workshop the PNC foundation for their commitment to and support of teaching the methods of scientific inquiry to the next generation of Americans, and we hope that they will, along with other groups, continue to support the advancement of the principles of science and reason well into the future.

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