Moving Sesame Street’s Lessons Online
Many of us grew up with “The Muppets.” Being a kid would not have been complete without Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the voracious Cookie Monster on television’s “Sesame Street.”
Since 2006, the New York-based Sesame Workshop has worked with Creative Indigo Productions in Jakarta to create the program’s Indonesian version. Named “Jalan Sesama” (which translates roughly to “Friend’s Street”), the TV program chronicles the lives of its four main characters: Momon, Putri, Jabrik and Tantan.
Momon is a little boy who is a diligent and organized student. His friends adore him because he is clever and always willing to help them in their studies.
“He was developed to encourage our little boys, who tend to be messy and disorganized, to be more diligent in their schoolwork,” said Muhammad Zuhdi, director of the education, research and outreach program at “Jalan Sesama.”
Putri is Momon’s peer, and her affinity for song and dance is contagious.
“This character will encourage our little girls not to be shy and become more confident in expressing their talents,” Zuhdi said.
Tantan is a female orangutan who loves fruits and vegetables. Through the character, “Jalan Sesama” encourages children to eat healthy foods.
“The impact has been pretty amazing so far,” Zuhdi said. “A mother once wrote on our wall on Facebook that her little boy has started to love eating fruits and vegetables since watching Tantan on ‘Jalan Sesama.’ ”
According to Zuhdi, the characters were developed based on a study of the specific needs of Indonesia’s children.
“Jalan Sesama” debuted on Feb. 18, 2008, on Trans 7, where it ran for three seasons. Since last September, the show’s fourth season has been running from Monday to Friday at 1 p.m. on Kompas TV.
“The program has received a lot of positive feedback from the viewers,” Zuhdi said.
In 2009, it was named among the top five high-quality TV programs based on a survey conducted by the Science, Aesthetics and Technology Foundation (SET), which was established by Indonesian filmmaker Garin Nugroho and advocates for multicultural and educational programs on Indonesian TV.
In May 2010, an episode from the third season took gold at the WorldMediaFestival in Hamburg for being the best show in the preschool and kindergarten education category. In July 2010, the program was also awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Ministry of Education for its positive child education programs.
On Jan. 17, “Jalan Sesama” launched its Web site, www.jalansesama.or.id, at Gallerie Cafe in South Jakarta.
“It’s an informative, interactive and educational Web site targeted at children, their parents and teachers,” Zuhdi said.
The Web site contains downloadable videos of “Jalan Sesama” episodes, parenting tips and interactive games.
Fans of “Jalan Sesama” can also register to become a warga, or resident, of “Jalan Sesama.” As residents, they can upload their own stories and pictures to the site.
Zuhdi said the Web site answered the needs of Indonesian children.
“Today’s children grow up much faster than we did at their ages,” he said. “Today, they have Facebook and Twitter accounts that they access on their smartphones or tablets. But unfortunately, there aren’t many child-friendly Web sites in Indonesia.”
According to Zuhdi, this void could lead children to harmful information from dubious Web sites.
“They’re actively searching,” he said. “Therefore, we must give them something [good] or else they may get their entertainment and education from harmful sources.”
Enda Nasution, the director of the Web site Salingsilang.com and a prominent blogger, welcomed the arrival of the new site.
“It’s a highly creative and educational Web site,” Enda said. “It is the kind of Web site our children need.”
“They’re very curious and eager to learn,” said Enda, who calls today’s youngest generations “digital natives.” “They may not sit in front of the computer yet, but they’re already Internet-savvy. They browse the Internet on their tablets or iPads and learn a lot from it.”
According to Enda, there are more than 40 million Internet users in Indonesia today and 90 percent of them are younger than 35.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know how many children are among them,” he said. “But I believe their number is quite significant. Therefore, they should have interactive Web sites specifically geared to them.”
The “Jalan Sesama” Web site is also designed to engage parents and children with interactive games.
“Take the ‘Jejak Siapa’ (‘Whose Footprints’) game, for example,” said Widita Diah Kustrini, public relations coordinator for “Jalan Sesama.” “Children can guess the animals that left their footprints on the sandy beach and then ask more questions about the animals to their parents. They can bond and foster a stronger sense of intimacy through the simple activity.”
Kids can also listen to popular children’s songs, and parents and teachers can print coloring sheets from the site.
“The digital world has proven to have great impacts on our lives today,” Enda said. “With this fun and innovative Web site, I believe Indonesian children will grow up smart and confident of their abilities.”