On Tuesday, October 22, 2019, Nebraska Educational Television (NET) – the Nebraska Public Broadcast Station located in Lincoln, Nebraskan – brought a Sesame Street character to life in a small Nebraska town. O’Neill, Nebraska, with a population of 3,635 residents was handpicked for this programming.
Sandra Day, former director of education at NET, said their team wanted to do something special for O’Neill, Nebraska, which has dealt with immigration issues and recent flooding. They wanted to give them a celebration for the 50th year anniversary of Sesame Street.
It isn’t out of the ordinary for NET to share their resources with the rest of the Nebraska community. They do a lot of outreach to educators in the state, currently training them on the PBS Learning Media Library. The Learning Media Library creates lessons out of popular children’s television shows which educators can use in their classrooms.
In one training session which occurred last summer in Grand Island, Nebraska, Day described how this resource impacted teachers.
“She said, ‘Oh my God do you have any idea how much time you’ve just saved me?’ And I said, ‘Yes Amber I do because I was a teacher one day and here is everything you wanted to learn for social studies already aligned to state standards. Pick a grade level and off you go,” Day said. “I mean it’s just wonderful.”
Sarah Noordemeer, current early childhood education specialist at NET, said the digital learning library was not created on accident.
“PBS doesn’t want you to just watch a clip they want you to watch it and then engage with it some other way whether that’s playing a game online or doing a hands on activity,” Noordemeer said. “I think that’s the other important thing too.”
According to Day and Nordeemer, inclusivity is a main framework for the upcoming PBS programming that kids get to interact with.
“There’s data that shows that if you expose children to different cultures at an early age they’re more accepting as they grow older so that I know for a fact it’s true,” Day said. “The more we can get that kind of material in front of all kinds of Americans, the more accepting we’ll all be of each other.”
Molly of Denali, Luna the Moon and Xavier Riddle are among the shows mentioned which reveal authenticity, diversity and culture.
“Seeing those accurate portrayals and seeing that they’re not strangers, they’re kids just like everybody else,” Nordeemer said. “Seeing the different ways that they can connect and learn together I think is really key.”
Noordemeer and Day hope to continue spreading these powerful digital tools to adults, teachers and students alike.
“We just want to serve everybody. That would be the best thing is if we could if we had a way to literally touch every Nebraskan,” Day said.