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Sesame Street Plans Social-Emotional Learning Program for Refugee Children

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The Sesame Workshop hopes the friendly faces of Sesame Street characters will help refugee children navigate the complex social and emotional effects of trauma and displacement.

The organization is teaming with the International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian organization, to "deliver transformative early learning and social-emotional support to millions of refugee children in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria," it said in a news release Thursday:

"Of the 65 million displaced people around the world, half are children and 12 million of those are younger than eight. These children suffer the daily effects of violence and neglect, frequently leading to toxic stress, which can have lifelong damaging effects on learning, behavior, and health. But children are resilient, and damage can be reduced if they are reached early. In a partnership announced last May at the World Humanitarian Summit, Sesame Workshop and the IRC will create multi-media content featuring the trusted Sesame Street Muppets—adapted to reflect the experiences of refugee children and their parents—to meet critical developmental needs and mitigate the effects of adverse childhood experiences in crisis settings.

 Digital platforms, as well as printed materials, will be used to reach the largest possible number of children and families, through multiple avenues such as schools, community centers, social protection programs, and health clinics. The initiative will create programs and culturally relevant content for children, as well as tools and strategies to help parents and caregivers more effectively engage with them to build resiliency and support learning."

The project has been selected as a semi-finalist for a $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation, but the organizations have committed to moving forward with the project even if they don't receive the grant.

The broader programming will build on a 15-month pilot project the organizations launched in January.

Here's a video that explains more about the project and includes plenty of footage of adorable children meeting Muppets.

As we've written previously, childhood trauma—for children in refugee camps or children facing difficult circumstances in the United States—can affect brain development and lead to adverse outcomes later in life. Researchers have found that interventions, including supportive adult relationships, can help counteract those effects.

Photo: Sesame Workshop.

Related reading on refugee students and child trauma:

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