Members of Sesame Street and the Electric Company joined military families at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall this weekend to launch a new website designed to help young children express their emotions and communicate with a deployed parent.
Military Families Near and Far is designed for 6- to 9-year-olds and allows them to create their own family network. They can share photos, videos and messages within that network, among other things.
“It’s not just for kids. It’s for parents, siblings – the whole family,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Paul Hammer, the director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injuries (DCoE).
Before unveiling the site, Sesame Workshop – the nonprofit behind Sesame Street and the Electric Company – presented an hour-long show Saturday morning.
Sesame Street’s Abby Cadabby led the children in the song “Near and Far,” while Electric Company characters Jessica (Priscilla Star Diaz) and Shock (Chris Sullivan) led the children in dancing and beatboxing.
As a way to teach children how to speak their emotions, circular flashcards were given out with different expressions on them. The kids were instructed to hold up the cards that demonstrated how they were feeling.
“Kids aren’t uneasy with expressing emotions, but they don’t necessarily have the words to express it,” said Christina App, outreach program manager for Sesame Workshop.
At the end of the presentation, the attendees were given the opportunity to play and try out the website themselves.
“There are so many ways families connect online these days, but none of them are appropriate for kids, so we used everything we’ve learned... from making SesameStreet.com,” App said.
Military Families Near and Far is the second partnership between Sesame Workshop and the DCoE following 2007’s Talk, Listen, Connect initiative.
Sesame Workshop President Melvin Ming attended Saturday’s ceremony, along with Charles Milan, the Defense Department’s military community and family policy director.
More importantly for the children was the opportunity to mingle and have their picture taken with Abby Cadabby and longtime Sesame Street character Gordon. Gordon, played by Roscoe Orman, has been on the show since 1974. A life-size Elmo also appeared, generating a long line for photo ops.
Sesame Workshop chose to come down from its New York headquarters and launch the program at Fort Myer in part because of the symbolic ties between Washington, D.C., and the military, App said.
“I think it turned out great. We got a lot of military families today. We can help a lot of military families,” Hammer said. “We wanted the event to be fun.”