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The USO put on a show of Sesame Street characters for families at Little Hall theater.

Photo by Adele Uphaus-Conner

Sesame Street/USO show teaches children that moving can be an adventure

27 Sep 2016 | Adele Uphaus-Conner Marine Corps Base Quantico

Tiny bodies could not keep to their seats when a certain furry red monster was spotted on the stage in Little Hall aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico Sept. 25.

Toddlers and preschoolers wriggled and danced in the aisles as Elmo invited the audience to do the “Elmo Slide” with him and his monster friends Rosita, Grover, Cookie Monster and Telly. Other children were too excited to do little more than stand and point.

Quantico families had four chances to see their favorite characters from “Sesame Street” in real life when the “Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families” visited MCBQ Sept. 24 and 25.

Created exclusively for military families, the Sesame Street/USO tour, which is free to attend, uses the beloved television characters to explore issues relevant to the children of service members.

“[The show] is more than just entertaining,” said Karen Hart communications consultant for the Sesame Street/USO tour. “It has tackled issues like homecomings and deployments; moving to a new base; and even created a character named Katie exclusively for this tour.”

Each Sesame Street/USO show serves as an icebreaker, Hart explained. It is meant to give parents an entry point into a dialogue they can continue with their children at home.

“Sesame Street knows kids. The USO knows service members and military families. It’s the perfect partnership,” Hart said.

This phase of the tour kicked off in May and is performing 160 shows at more than 50 military installations around the United States. The current show is called “Katie is Moving to a New Base.”

“Since military kids move six to nine times between preschool and high school, this is a topic that really resonates with both kids and mom and dad,” Hart said.

Military kid Katie starts out the show feeling sad because her parents have told her she will be moving to a new base once again. She doesn’t want to leave her friends, Elmo, Cookie Monster, Rosita, and Grover, and worries about the change. But her pals convince her to see the move as a new adventure in which she is the hero. They reassure her that they will stay in touch and that they will always be her friends, but that she can make new friends as well. And they help her understand that while her surroundings may change, she will always be herself.

At the end of the show, Katie and her friends sing the song “What I Am:” “If what I am is what’s in me / Then I’ll stay strong - that’s who I’ll be / And I will always be the best / “Me” that I can be / I’ll keep my head up high / Keep on reaching high / Never gonna quit / I’ll keep getting stronger.”

In the lobby of Little Hall, free workbooks were available for families to take home to continue the discussion. Like “Katie is Moving to a New Base,” the workbook “My Story, My Big Adventure” encourages children to think of themselves as superheroes and a move as an adventure. It contains cards that children can give to their friends before they move with their new contact information, places for children to brainstorm things about themselves that won’t change and answers to questions others might ask them (where are you from, what does your mom/dad do in the military, etc.), a pledge to read as a family about working together as a team, a world map where children can identify all the places they’ve lived, “bravery badges” that children can keep in their pockets as reminders to stay strong on tough days  and much more.

There’s also a free app for mobile devices, “The Big Moving Adventure,” to help children ages two through five navigate the moving process. The app and lots of other resources can be found at http://www.sesamestreetformilitaryfamilies.org/.

“Sesame Street and the USO hope children will take away the many positive messages that Elmo, Katie, and their Sesame Street pals share during the performance,” Hart said. “Additionally, they hope parents will use this as an opportunity to talk to their kids about how they might be feeling and reassure their children moving can be an exciting new adventure.”