“The ABCs of Back to School, A CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall for Families” aired on Saturday morning and tackled such issues as staying safe in classrooms and making the most of virtual learning.
The town hall was moderated by CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN anchor and national correspondent Erica Hill, and, of course, Big Bird.
One kid wondered if going back means the germs are gone
The town hall started with a question from Eli from Oklahoma, who asked if the germs are gone now that students are going back to school.
Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez said the germs haven’t gone away yet, but we now know what we can do to protect ourselves and each other — which makes returning to school safer than before.
“We’ve learned that if we wash our hands, if we wear our masks, if we keep our distance, we really, really can prevent ourselves and our friends from catching the germs,” Bracho-Sanchez said. “So I want you to feel safe if you’re grown ups choose to send you back to school.”
She also said that if kids don’t feel safe going back, it’s a really good idea for them to share their feelings with parents so they can get through it together.
Rosita showed off her home classroom
School doesn’t have to be boring for students who are attending virtually. Those who miss their classrooms can set up mini ones in their homes — just like Rosita.
Rosita showed off her colorful home classroom, featuring arts and crafts she made herself and hung on the walls. She also showed us her school supplies, headphones and schedule.
“I made it out of cardboard we had in the house. It makes me feel like I’m at school even while I’m at home,” Rosita said about her desk.
Gupta, who complimented Rosita’s desk, spoke about the importance of making sure that kids learning online understand that school is separate from home life. He said that getting students in a routine and setting up a designated learning area can help reinforce that.
A parent asked if she should wash her child’s school bag
Krystle Ragston from Texas, who is a parent and teacher, was especially worried about the items her children will bring home from school. Ragston asked if she should regularly wash her kids’ uniforms, backpacks and masks.
“The good news is you typically think of people over porcelain in terms of how this virus is spread, so it’s more likely to come from actual people as opposed to objects,” Gupta said.
Masks should be washed regularly, but uniforms and backpacks can be washed at the regular frequency families are used to, he added.
Get a flu shot
The coronavirus isn’t the only thing people are worried about this fall.
Paityn, 9, from Louisiana wondered if she should take extra precautions as we approach flu season.
Because of the pandemic, we are constantly washing our hands, covering our faces with masks and social distancing from friends, families and strangers. Luckily, these precautions should also help us fight the flu as well as the virus, but there’s still one more really important tool we can use to protect ourselves from the flu, experts said.
“When it comes to the flu, we also have a safe and effective vaccine, so this season is more important than ever that we all get our flu shots,” Bracho-Sanchez said.
Planning ahead helps, too, so now would be a good time for families to start getting those shots.
Big Bird shared his school supplies checklist
One fun thing about going back to school is getting supplies. But first, you need to make a supplies checklist. Big Bird showed off his checklist, which looks slightly different this year.
“I have my pencils and paper, and crayons. Oh, here’s a new one. It’s my mask,” Big Bird said. “I wear it over my beak and it helps keep me and my teacher and my classmates all healthy.”
Along with his wipes and wing sanitizer, Big Bird’s checklist also includes a distance stick, made out of paper towel rolls, tape and construction paper. He uses it to make sure he’s keeping the right amount of distance from his friends. He also uses the stick, which is shaped like a hand, to wave at friends and give them high fives.
This student wanted to know how to greet his friends
Miles, 9, from New York said he’s nervous to go back to school but feels excited to see his friends. He wanted to know how to safely greet them.
While all of us have missed our friends, it’s still not safe to go back to hugging yet. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t others ways to greet each other, the experts said.
You can do an elbow bump, where you both raise your elbows and make them touch. Bracho-Sanchez also suggested the foot shake, even although it might take some balance.
The experts added that if a teacher or fellow student gets coronavirus, kids should get tested and stay home from school until they’re cleared by doctors to return.
Rudy talked about feeling stressed
Kids are bound to be stressed, whether they’re going back to class like Elmo, participating in hybrid learning like Big Bird or fully remote like Rosita.
Sesame Street’s Rudy shared how stressed and emotional he feels about all the changes. He said he loved school before the pandemic, but now that it’s so different, he’s scared he’ll mess things up.
Abby Cadabby helped her little brother calm down with belly breathing exercises and setting up a schedule with pictures to help him remember what to do.
Many parents asked about what they can do to help reduce their children’s anxiety about returning to school, while others wondered how schools will help develop the social and emotional skills their young ones aren’t receiving from virtual learning.
Many schools incorporate emotional and social development in their everyday curriculums, while others bring in families as partners in social and emotional learning, said Akimi Gibson, vice president and education publisher for Sesame Learning.
When it comes to helping them calm down, licensed clinical social worker Talia Filippelli advised parents to use these moments to support their kids and teach them confidence.
“Parents in those moments feel like they have to solve their kids’ feelings; Your kids don’t need that,” Filippelli said. “They really just need you to sit next to them, give them a hug, tell them you love them and you have supreme confidence that they’ll be able to get through this and kids absorb that. If we can lead with confidence and optimism, our kids will soak that in.”