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Science Says Sesame Street Makes Kids Smarter, Even In High School

Children who watch Sesame Street as a preschooler have higher academic achievement that lasts all the way into high school. Researchers have dubbed this the "Sesame effect."

Why It Matters

Not all children have equal access to educational materials. Some start music classes in early infancy or begin learning a second language as a toddler, but millions of kids aren't so lucky. That said, any child who has access to a television should be able to watch Sesame Street, which appears on PBS. (Starting in 2016, the children's show began airing first on HBO, but it still reairs on public television.)

And that's a good thing: The benefits of watching Sesame Street have been rigorously researched in more than 1,000 studies over the course of 30 years. One study, published in 2015, found that "the TV show is 'the largest and least-costly [early childhood] intervention that's ever been implemented" in the United States, as Phillip Levine, the study co-author, told The Atlantic.

Smart Graphic

Why It's Relevant

According to the 2015 study, Sesame Street can be as impactful as preschool when it comes to a child's education. The study found that "Sesame Street improved school readiness, particularly for boys and children living in economically disadvantaged areas." In a world where education inequality is a worldwide reality, that's a pretty big deal.

Insight From An Expert

Kasey Bell
Digital Learning Consultant
Why do you think it's important for teachers to be digitally savvy?

We live in a digital world, and it's important for teachers to embrace digital learning in the classroom to prepare students for the future. Teachers who are not willing to embrace digital learning will get left behind, and are doing their students a disservice.

What important things can teachers do with technology today that they couldn't a decade ago?

Anytime, anywhere learning! Ten years ago we didn't have access to digital tools and online resources from any device like we do today. We also have some amazing new ways to collaborate on a global scale, and continue to grow and learn through social media networks.

What are the most important things you think students should know about the internet?

You don't know what you don't know! Students today can be very savvy with technology, but they do not know how to leverage it for learning. That's where the teacher comes in! Students need to learn good research skills, and how to evaluate the information on the web. Just because it is out there, doesn't mean that it is true or useful.

What role do you see social media playing in the classroom?

I also think it is imperative for students to have an online presence through a website, blog, online resume, and/or social media. They need to learn how to create a positive social media presence. They will be Googled before they get their first job!

What's the biggest challenge to integrating education and technology?

Mindset! I can't tell you how many people try to say that technology just isn't their thing. It doesn't matter; you just have to keep trying. Even if you fail, fail again and fail better.

Is there anything else you think is important to mention?

One thing I find myself saying to teachers more than anything, "Don't be afraid to let your students teach you!" Students have a lot to share and can help teachers bridge the gap in the classroom. Stay positive and open to trying new things!

Editors' Picks: Our Favorite Videos About Sesame Street

Sesame Street: The Importance of Early Childhood Education

Thie video is brought to you by the letter S.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Before the age of 5, the brain forms as many as 700 neural connections per second. 01:02

  2. "The Sesame effect" refers to the fact that children who grew up watching Sesame Street tend to receive higher academic marks than those who didn't. 01:32

  3. Children in Bangladesh who watch Sesame Street perform 67% higher in literacy than those who don't watch it. 02:00

The History of Sesame Street

It's changed a lot since its debut in 1969.

How Sesame Street Got Its Name

It was a last minute call.

Written by Curiosity Staff July 2, 2015

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