Students at Harvard University’s graduate school of education are used to seeing visiting dignitaries on campus.
But none that were cute, furry, and blue.
At least that was the case until last month, when Grover, the lovable muppet of “Sesame Street” fame, came to grace the Cambridge, Mass., campus.
Grover was visiting to promote a new course on children’s informal learning that the education school is launching with help from Sesame Workshop, which created the famous “Sesame Street” children’s television program.
Joseph Blatt, the professor who developed the course, said it focuses on how to harness the positive power of the media to improve children’s health, particularly problems that stem from alarming levels of obesity among youngsters nationwide.
Visiting speakers for the course will include executives, producers, and writers from the New York City-based workshop as well as Harvard experts on pediatrics and early-childhood development.
As part of the course, students, working individually or in small groups, will develop a proposal for a media project to promote healthy behaviors among 6- to 9-year-olds, and then pitch their ideas to Sesame Workshop executives.
“The opportunity to pitch a proposal to top executives from Sesame Workshop is something a lot of people would like to do,” Mr. Blatt said.
Who knows what could happen? The workshop, which is launching its own children’s health initiative this spring, just might find some of those ideas useful.
According to Mr. Blatt, the recent collaboration actually rekindles a relationship the education school had with Sesame Workshop back in the 1960s and 1970s, when the educational media group was known as the Children’s Television Workshop. Back then, consulting Harvard professors helped shape both “Sesame Street” and the now-defunct “Electric Company,” another popular educational TV show.
Although no plans are now in the works to have Big Bird come to lecture at Harvard, Mr. Blatt said he doesn’t rule out that possibility.
“Grover was such a hit,” he said. “I’m sure we’d love to have the entire muppet crew.”
A version of this article appeared in the March 02, 2005 edition of Education Week