Sesame Pitches Global Citizenship Through ‘Panwapa’

Move over Big Bird and Elmo. Sesame Workshop has a whole new cast of characters who speak five languages and are looking to take the world by storm with a program called “Panwapa.”

Sesame Workshop, is teaming up with the Merrill Lynch Foundation on Panwapa, which means “here on this earth” in the Tshiluba language. Sesame said Panwapa “aims to foster the foundation for global citizenship and community participation in young children, ages 4 to 7.”

Panwapa will debut on free video-on-demand in January via PBS Kids Sprout, and Panwapa games and information will be available at

Sesame Workshop also launched an interactive Web site, which allows users to access content in five languages – Arabic, English, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish.

Apple’s iTunes store also began distributing free Panwapa programming Wednesday.

A core focus of the project is the site, which is based on Panwapa Island, a “floating island that travels the oceans of the world, where children and their caregivers will enter the virtual Panwapa community and meet newly created Muppet characters such as Athena the Owl and Azibo the Monster,” Sesame Workshop said.

The company is also distributing 200,000 Panwapa educational kits in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Jordan and Mexico to “encourage long-term exploration of the issues of global citizenship.” The kit includes a DVD, a caregiver magazine with an activity section for children, a board game that reinforces the lessons, and a map of the world to support and complement the Panwapa experience.

Panwapa was developed by a team of international cultural experts, early childhood researchers, educators and media specialists form nine countries and organizations such as Oxfam, UNICEF and the World Bank. Multi-national teams from Merrill Lynch and Sesame Workshop worked with the advisors to create content for the program, focusing on messages of global citizenship for young children.