Sep 12, 2019 · 4 min read

Sesame Workshop and The Primary School to Create and Share Innovative Curriculum, Helping Early Childhood Educators Meet “Whole Child” Needs

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Funds Program Integrating Social Emotional Learning and Literacy for 3 to 5 Year Olds


Sesame Workshop, The Primary School, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative today announced a collaboration to create a new curriculum that will help early childhood educators meet the academic, social emotional, physical, and mental health needs of their students.

Studies show that high-quality early education is linked to better educational outcomes, health outcomes, and long-term success. Yet a lack of access to first-rate programs and support leaves children across the country entering kindergarten behind their more-advantaged peers. With this program, Sesame Workshop and The Primary School aim to improve kindergarten readiness outcomes for all children—particularly those in underserved communities—by helping early childhood teachers support children’s comprehensive development.

The whole-child approach to early learning draws on Sesame Workshop’s pioneering, evidence-based method of helping children thrive in their earliest years. Sesame Workshop and The Primary School, an organization that integrates education, health care, and family support services and builds family well-being throughout a child’s development, have been developing and piloting the new curriculum over the past two years at The Primary School’s flagship site in East Palo Alto, California. By the end of 2020, the curriculum will be digitized and made available online for use in additional qualifying early learning classrooms across the country.

“We know that reaching children in their earliest years can change the trajectory of their lives. By joining the expertise of Sesame Workshop and The Primary School, I am optimistic that educators, students, and families will benefit from exceptional tools that can help young children thrive,” said Priscilla Chan, co-founder and co-CEO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Chan, a pediatrician and former educator, is also the co-founder and board chair of The Primary School. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is supporting the work through a three-year grant.

The new curriculum will integrate social emotional learning into early childhood literacy lessons, in accordance with Sesame Workshop’s Framework for School Readiness, with a specific emphasis on language development and comprehension. Based upon 50 years of Sesame Workshop research and development, the venture has two key goals: promoting social emotional learning with literacy as a foundation for future academic and life success and well-being, and making these resources widely available.

The curriculum will be piloted over the course of the next school year in early childhood classrooms at The Primary School, Public Prep Network and FirstStepNYC in New York City. After gathering extensive input and feedback from educators, school leaders, students, their families, and an advisory board of education experts, the curriculum will be refined and shared with more schools the following year. In the grant’s third and final year, the partners will focus on researching, identifying, and developing additional ways to support early learning.

The Primary School’s CEO Courtney Garcia commented on the partnership, saying, “We know that a child’s first five years are a time of tremendous growth. We’re excited to partner with Sesame Workshop, an organization that has paved the way in early childhood education, to develop a high-quality, whole child curriculum for our youngest students. We look forward to sharing these new tools as a resource for teachers everywhere as they help children develop strong academic, social, emotional, and cognitive skills for kindergarten and beyond.”

Sesame Workshop President, Media & Education, and Chief Operating Officer Steve Youngwood, noted, “The Primary School is the ideal partner with which to design, develop, and pilot this new research-based curriculum. The school’s commitment to the whole child, and indeed, the whole community, parallels Sesame Workshop’s mission to help children everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. We look forward to working together and to making this innovative curriculum freely and broadly available to early childhood educators and schools.”

A high-resolution photo of Elmo, Priscilla Chan and students from The Primary School can be downloaded here.

A broadcast-quality version of the announcement video can be downloaded here.

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