J-term perspective: “the Sesame Street class”

When I was in college, winter break lasted for about a month and involved as much rest, relaxation, and Netflix as I could muster. Here at HGSE, winter break can take one of two forms, both of which have huge benefits. For students who want to recuperate from the fall, gear up for spring, explore career options, and visit with friends and family, an extended winter break is an option. For students who are eager to get back to class as soon as possible, there’s an awesome opportunity to take an intensive January term (J-Term, for short) class during the first two weeks of January. I was beyond excited when I read about one of the J-term options: Informal Learning for Children (often referred to colloquially as “the Sesame Street class”).

Enrolling in Informal Learning was nothing short of transformative for me not only my professional development but also my personal development. The course is structured around a series of guest speakers, many of whom are members of the Sesame Workshop team. Professor Joe Blatt curates a community of speakers who share their expertise in all things informal learning – media development, operations, production, digital tech, formative evaluation, social impact, and more. I spent each day of class engrossed in the lectures, slides, videos, and stories that the speakers told, and I was constantly writing down tips and tricks for my own career that they shared in their talks.

Alongside the agenda of guests during each day, the primary work of the class manifests in a large-scale group project in which we were tasked with developing a multimedia intervention for a particular target audience in the span of about eight days. My project team (shout out to Team Elmo!) was comprised of an MPH student, a TIE student, and three HDP students. Although we were not close friends on our first day of work together, by the conclusion of the course we were making plans for future gatherings both to continue work on our project and maintain the friendships we’d developed. Our project, Get In To End The Opioid Crisis, targets teens in the Boston area in an effort to increase awareness, invoke empathy, and inspire action to end the opioid crisis. Through the development of a popup exhibit at the Boston Public Library and accompanying social media and online resources, we hope to launch a movement in which teens (and eventually families and communities) feel empowered to contribute to the ongoing fight to end the opioid crisis. Although the expectations for the class have been completed, as our project unfolded, our conviction that this work is needed and this product could have enormous utility only grew, so we’re excited to pitch it to local libraries and teen centers in the coming months to get a pilot off the ground.

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Mock up for Get In To End The Opioid Crisis pop-up exhibit

Perhaps the most exciting moment throughout J-term and Informal Learning was having the opportunity to pitch Get In To End The Opioid Crisis to a panel of children’s and teen media experts, including Jeff Dunn, the CEO and President of Sesame Workshop. Sharing our work with the panel and hearing their feedback about our professionalism, progress, and innovative concept was thrilling and we’re looking forward to continuing to develop our informal learning product!

Blog written by Hannah Steinhardt, photo provided by Hannah Steinhardt

Hannah Steinhardt is an Ed.M candidate in the human development and psychology program. She coordinates the KIND Schools Challenge at Making Caring Common and is helping to scale a high school internship program at the Waltham Partnership for Youth. Her focuses in HDP are workforce development and youth character development. Outside of school, she’s a huge Broadway musical fan!