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Last updated 10:10PM ET
July 22, 2018
WOUB outreach coordinator finds a common bond with Belizeans
(WOUB) - Even in the jungles of Belize the children know what Sesame Street is. Suzanne Borchard, Ready-to-Learn coordinator for the WOUB Center for Public Media, spent 10 days in January conducting educational workshops with teachers and children from small Belize villages and it all came from a common bond-the PBS television show Sesame Street.

Borchard spent 10 days with Ohio University and Hocking College students who were in Belize studying eco-tourism and biology with a group called InterAmerican InterAction (IAIA). The non-profit group helps native Belizeans with eco-tourism and with developing educational and economic exchange. IAIA's efforts are focused on the persons of the K'ekchi' and Mopan Maya cultures in the Toledo District in southern Belize, especially the village of San Pedro Columbia.

The idea for Borchard's involvement in the project came from a PBS documentary Independent Lens "The World According to Sesame Street." Rebecca Wood from Hocking College saw the documentary that explores Sesame Street and how it is produced and changed to appeal to different cultures and thought it would be an excellent outreach tool to educate Belizeans. Sesame Street is seen in more than 120 countries around the world including Belize. International co-productions of Sesame Street are each tailored to the cultural, social, and political demands of their country's viewers.

Connie Burke, who is a former OU employee and involved in IAIA, wanted to include Borchard after watching the documentary because she felt Sesame Street could be an excellent way to reach teachers and children in the rural villages of Belize. The small, rural villages in Belize normally only have one television and Sesame Street is a very popular program with the children. Borchard contacted Sesame Street and they donated materials to the project.

Borchard spent her time in Belize teaching workshops to teachers including showing them how to access and use the PBS Web site for instructional material. Part of IAIA's mission in Belize is to set villages up with a computer station. Borchard also did workshops for the children including a Healthy Habits for Life workshop that included making calendars with the different fruits that grow in their villages and that are the main staple of their diets. The workshop is designed to help install healthy eating habits for small children.

According to Borchard the children were very respectful and eager to learn. "The children were great. It's amazing that no matter where you are, children are basically the same," says Borchard. The children also participated in "Share a Story" workshops where they tell a story that is important to them and draw pictures to illustrate the story. Students were sent to stay with families in the villages and introduced them to "Share a Story." "The 'Share a Story' workshop was mainly a way to connect with the children. It made them realize that everyone, no matter where you live or where you come from, has things in common," says Borchard.
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