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Humane Education in the Neighborhood

I work for Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street. Even after being weaned on the show and communing with the Muppets full-time, there are always new insights to be had, new layers to peel away. Like learning that Ernie and Bert and Ernie represent ego and id, or realizing the true value of Oscar the Grouch’s character: to normalize negative emotions.

Lately, I’ve been noticing humane education messages embedded in the show— lessons of compassion, appreciation, and respect for even the smallest or most “disgusting” life forms:

Bert & Bernice



You might remember Bert’s fondness for his pigeon friend Bernice. Most city-dwellers disdain pigeons. Not Bert. Bernice is Bert’s beautiful buddy, and no one judges him for it.





Ernie & The Twiddlebugs

Ernie is fascinated with the Twiddlebugs living in his window box. Okay, they’re “just little bugs”—but not to him. He spends time carefully observing them and gives them tiny props to decorate their world: a thimble for a chair, for instance.

Oscar & Slimey


Even Oscar, the classic misanthrope, really looks out for his brightly-striped worm friend, Slimey. Oscar found Slimey playing alone in a mud puddle. The baby worm crawled up Oscar’s shoulder and fell asleep, and the rest was history. Slimey communicates with squeaks and gestures, which Oscar understands. Oscar also thinks the flies that buzz around his can are just terrific.

Also note that Oscar is grouchy, not mean. There’s a difference. Negative emotions happen, it’s what you do with them that matters.

Elmo & Dorothy

Elmo chatters away to his goldfish, Dorothy (though I don’t know how happy she could be in that bowl).

Lesser-known furry friends of the neighborhood are Barkley, the Sesame Street dog, and a yellow lab retriever service dog named Brandeis!

photos: Sesame Workshop