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URI science education professor makes debut on ‘Sesame Street’

Published: Monday, November 21, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 12:11


A science educator at the University of Rhode Island is appearing on the popular children's series, "Sesame Street."

Sara Sweetman is the Director of Education in a nationally recognized Science Education network based out of URI.

Currently, Sweetman is an elementary educator at Ashaway Elementary School in Westerly, R.I., specializing in science. In addition, Sweetman is a part-time professor in the Education Department at URI and also assists other educators in developing their science curriculums.

Since Feb. 2010, Sweetman has been working behind the scenes with the "Sesame Street" Workshop reviewing the content to be aired. She helps in creating the lesson plans used in the science related segments.

While advising the filming of an episode in Central Park in New York City, Sweetman was given the opportunity to appear on "Sesame Street." She was asked to help with a series of science experiments for the show, and happily rose to the occasion. For Sweetman and the other actors, a script was not necessary because they were conducting actual science experiments. The producers could not anticipate the outcome of the experiments, so having a pre-written script would not be beneficial.

She will be appearing on screen with famous "Sesame Street" characters like Murray, Elmo and Super Grover.

"I respect the energy and passion the characters, producers and educators put in. It was amazing to be part of it," Sweetman said.

The three episodes Sweetman will be featured in are "The Bubble Fest," "Elmo and the Monarch Butterfly" and "Falling Leaves," which will all be aired on Rhode Island PBS from December to February. Her 4-year-old and 6-year-old are surprisingly used to seeing their mom on "Sesame Street," however.

"I have been working for "Sesame Street" for a while so my kids think it's what mommy does, she said. "They help review the episodes so it is seems normal to them." Sweetman said.

Lke her students, Sweetman believes learning is easier in a hands-on environment rather than just listening. Like Super Grover, who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty and finds problems to fix, Sweetman finds herself similar to the inquisitive yet eccentric super-hero Muppet.

"I surround myself with very supportive people, just how Super Grover does in episodes. He throws himself into situations and tries to fix a problem. That's similar to how I am," Sweetman said.

Sweetman never anticipated to be featured on "Sesame Street." She has never thought of herself as an actress, though she feels more comfortable behind the scenes working with the production team reviewing lesson plans. She is open to appearing on future segments of the show, but would prefer to remain an advisor.

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