Sesame Street’s Elmo Gets A Side-Hustle Teaching Engineering For Mark Zuckerberg

chan zuckeberg initiative sesame street

How do you get to Sesame Street? Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg may hold the key. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Primary School is working alongside the Sesame Workshop to offer a new education curriculum. 

The Primary School and Sesame Workshop have been working together on this new curriculum over the last two years. They have tested the curriculum at The Primary School’s site in East Palo Alto, California. The program is centered on the “whole child” approach, which concentrates on a student’s academic, cognitive, social-emotional, physical, and mental needs. The new curriculum is particularly focused on integrating “social emotional learning into early childhood literacy lessons.” The curriculum will be available online for free for qualifying classrooms by the end of 2020.

The promotional video features Elmo, a teacher, and a group of students who are playing with blocks. The teacher says that the students are learning to be engineers by building a bridge with the blocks. She notes, “Engineers have to think about how to build things and what tools to use.” When the block bridges fall down, the teacher leads the students and Elmo in “belly breaths”. She notes that the belly breaths are a good way for the students to calm down if they are upset. The focus of this lesson is not only on the logistics and creativity involved in building a bridge, but on dealing with emotions if a project does not work out.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in December 2015 and announced around the birth of Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan’s first child. The limited liability company’s goal is to “advance human potential and promote equality in areas such as health, education, scientific research and energy.” So far the company has invested in programs that focus on engineering and education in third world countries. They have also given money to a collaborative that is dedicated to finding a cure for all diseases.

chan zuckeberg initiative elmo

Many are rather concerned about the Initiative’s foray into education. Facebook’s possesses a notoriously poor privacy policy and their website contains little information about how their students’ information will be used and shared. It is also important to note that the Initiative is funded through Facebook shares. Some may be uncomfortable with this source of funding, especially given some of Facebook’s controversies such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Let’s hope that the Initiative takes the privacy of their pupils more seriously than Facebook takes the privacy of their users.