Jorge Baxter is the Regional Director in Latin America for Sesame Workshop. With over 15 years in the education, arts, and media fields and extensive experience in leveraging media and education for social change, Mr. Baxter is now raising awareness and educating young children about the deadly issue of traffic crashes. In this episode Mr. Baxter discusses what Sesame Workshop is doing to make an impact on traffic safety: globally, regionally and locally.
Traffic Safety is a Global Issue
- Road traffic crashes take the lives of nearly 1.3 million people every year, with almost half being pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
- Between 20-50 million people are injured in crashes.
- Road traffic crashes have become a leading cause of death for our youth.
Because of statistics like that, the United Nations declared 2011-20120 the Decade of Action for Road Safety. With a goal of saving 5 million lives by 2020, governments and non-governmental organizations are taking action to change those numbers. Sesame Workshop is one of those organizations.
Joining forces with FIA Foundation and Road Safety Global Partnership, Sesame Workshop is developing educational and advocacy material that is engaging and captures children’s and even parent’s attention. When looking at the issue of traffic safety, Sesame Workshop noted that road crashes disproportionally effect the youth and believes it can make a difference globally because of its educational experience and established contacts.
Starting at a Young Age
When making a decision to get involved, Sesame Workshop examines if there is a compelling reason, and if the issue is one for early childhood. Clearly in this situation, the answer to both questions is a resounding yes. With a dearth of early childhood material on traffic safety, it provided an excellent opportunity to be engaged in the issue.
Children are not born knowing road safety issues, and early interaction can be important. Sesame Workshop’s forte is focusing on children ages 3 to 7 and those individuals in a child’s “circle of influence.” Children learn about their environment from their interaction with adults, so targeting the parents as well as the children is an important part of the process. Real impact happens when children and adults talk about road safety together. It is also important that parents act as a good role model on safety practices, like looking both ways before crossing the road.
Public Service Announcements with Grover
A lot of the material looks at educating young children on such safety issues as:
- Playing near roads
- Pedestrian safety, and
- Bicycle safety and wearing a helmet
To help share the message, Sesame Workshop convinced a well-known celebrity to be a road safety ambassador: Grover, the Muppet. Grover is someone children know and find attractive; and he is curious and adventurous. In the traffic safety PSAs created with Grover, he uses the universal “Thumbs Up” to indicate he is safe and ready to go.
Developing a Localized Message
In developing the message, it was important to recognize that local issues make a difference. What works for a rural area will not work for an urban area and vice versa. There can even be large differences within a country, thus it is important to create material that can be used in local areas.
Partnering with Inter-American Development Bank, FIA Foundation and the Costa Rican government, Sesame Workshop has developed a pilot project for Costa Rica. Using local experts and international research on what works, a tool kit for teachers was created. The kit allows teachers to provide children road safety messages that compliment their current teaching curriculum and daily activities in their own community.
Part of the kit includes a “Big Book” that can be used in different group settings. The Big Book includes a series of stories on road safety along with a DVD of audiovisual content. It even has animations created by Plaza Sesamo incorporated into the messaging. Teachers are also trained on road safety so they understand the issues and how they might teach it. By having children take the road safety message home to their parents, it also encourages parents to learn about the issue. Some common topics include: crossing the road, what road signs and signals mean and pedestrian safety. In this fashion, the teachers, the children, and the parents are all learning about traffic safety.
The Ultimate Goal
Sesame Workshop focuses on having an impact; getting children motivated, changing behavior and ultimately on this issue, saving lives. This tool kit and the PSA messaging will empower children to respect cars, understand the dangers around roads and likewise engage their parents. This way children also become change agents for the adults. With the parents involved, the messages are spread throughout the family and into the community. Finally, children learning about road safety at a young age will be a lesson that can last for a lifetime.
- FIA Foundation
- Global Road Safety Partnership
- Inter-American Development Bank
- Kidsafe Victoria Australia
- Plaza Sesamo – Road Safety
- Sesame Street – Elmo Stays Safe
- Sesame Workshop
- Sesame Workshop – Road Safety
Road Safety Ambassador Grover
Sesame Workshop has appointed Grover as the Road Safety Ambassador as part of the United Nations Decade of Action on Road Safety.
 Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street. Established 40 years ago, its mission is to use media to educate children around the world.
 Plaza Sesamo is the Spanish-language adaptation of Sesame Street for Latin America.