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Characters from Sesame Street Participate in Town Hall on Children Going Back to School; Experts Answer Questions on Health Practices, Education Options, and Consequences for Social and Emotional Development Related to In-Person and Virtual Learning During Coronavirus Pandemic. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 12, 2020 - 10:00   ET





KHAIRI, FOUR-YEARS-OLD, ELIZABETH, NEW JERSEY: I'm starting school. I got my mask.

ELMO, 3.5-YEARS-OLD, SESAME STREET: Elmo is a little nervous to go back to school. But Elmo knows we're all in this together, Elmo's friends at school, Elmo's teacher, and Elmo's mommy and daddy, too.

ANDREA, NINE-YEARS-OLD, NEW YORK: I'm looking forward to meeting my new teacher.

ROSITA, FIVE-YEARS-OLD, SESAME STREET: I am so excited to go back to school. I'm learning how to read by myself. And I can't wait to read stories to my family and friends.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody.

BIG BIRD: Hi, Erica.

ROSITA: Hi, Erica.

ELMO: Hi, Erica.

HILL: It's so great to see you. Elmo, I love your mask.

ELMO: Thank you. Yes, Elmo is getting ready for school. So Elmo has his backpack. Oh, and his mask, too.

HILL: Well, Elmo, did you know it's actually --

BIG BIRD: Oh, and I'm getting ready for school, too, Erica. Yes, school is a little different for me now. Some days I go to school, and some days I learn from home, from my nest. And today I'm learning from home.

HILL: Well, today. Big Bird, today is actually --

ROSITA: I'm learning from home, too, Big Bird. And just because I'm learning from home it doesn't mean I don't have to get ready. I need to brush my fur and get dressed and eat something before school at home.

HILL: Oh, that's all true, Rosita. But did you know that today is actually --

ELMO: Elmo is off to school. Elmo doesn't want to be late. Have a great day at school.

BIG BIRD: Have fun, Elmo.

ROSITA: Say hi to everyone.

HILL: Wait, wait, Elmo. Wait, wait, wait. Everybody, hold up. Today is Saturday.

BIG BIRD: Saturday?

ROSITA: Saturday?

BIG BIRD: It is?

HILL: Yes. It's Saturday. So, no school today.



ELMO: Elmo knew that. Elmo knew that.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, everybody. Sorry I'm late. I was just having a little bit breakfast with my kids before they head off to school.

BIG BIRD: It's Saturday!

ROSITA: It's Saturday!

ELMO: It's Saturday!

GUPTA: Wait, what? Saturday?

ROSITA: Yes. Yes, Dr. Sanjay, today is Saturday. There's no school today.


ELMO: No, Dr. Sanjay.


GUPTA: Really? Kids are going to be so excited. Kids, it's Saturday. Look, the days have really been blending together. HILL: That is for sure. And while today may be Saturday, we're still

going to learn, because this morning we're having a town hall all about back to school.

ROSITA: A town hall? Yes!


HILL: This year school is a little different, or maybe a lot different, for students, teachers, and families.

BIG BIRD: Yes. But different can be OK.

GUPTA: That's right, Big Bird. This school year is not going to be what we're used to, but there's still lots of great ways children are learning at home and at school.

ROSITA: Oh, did you hear that? It's time to learn.

BIG BIRD: All right.

HILL: Welcome to "The ABCs of Back to School, A CNN Sesame Street Town Hall."

ELMO: Hey, everybody. Let's get ready for school.

BIG BIRD: All right.


ROSITA: Yes, yes and yes.

GUPTA: Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us on this --

BIG BIRD: Saturday. It's Saturday, Dr. Sanjay.


GUPTA: Saturday morning. That's right. Thank you, Big Bird.

HILL: I'm Erica Hill along with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and, once again, lending us a wing, our co-host Big Bird from Sesame Street.

BIG BIRD: Well, thank you for having me. I can't wait to start talking about school.

HILL: Yes. Well, this year going back to school is definitely going to be a little different.

GUPTA: You can say that again. As you can see from our opening segment, it's going to take a little adjusting for parents and teachers and kids and the whole family to get used to new school routines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

HILL: Yes. So some children will be in school for a full day like Elmo. Other kids might learn at school part of the time and then at home part of the time. That's what my sons are doing, Weston and Sawyer are doing.

BIG BIRD: Me, too. I get to go to school some days at home, and the other days I go to my school.

GUPTA: Yes, and that's what my kids are going to be doing as well. But you know what, some kids are continuing to distance learn only at home.

HILL: Yes. And to make it even more challenging for families, we know that plans are changing daily, and they're probably going to continue to change throughout the school year.

BIG BIRD: Yes. But like my granny bird says, we have to be flexible.

GUPTA: That's good advice, Big Bird. This isn't going to be a normal school year, but we will keep taking care of ourselves and taking care of others.


BIG BIRD: Yes. And we can make it a great school year together.

HILL: Oh, Big Bird, you're right. That's the best attitude to have. Today we're going to hear from doctors, teachers, students, and families, and we'll talk about all the wonderful ways that we can support each other, stay healthy, and keep learning.

GUPTA: So let's get started by answering your questions. And here to help is my friend, Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez.

HILL: So great to see you Dr. Edith. We want to get right to this question that we got from Eli in Oklahoma.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we're going back to school, does that mean that the germs have died?


DR. EDITH BRACHO-SANCHEZ, PRIMARY CARE PEDIATRICIAN: Hi, guys. That's such a good question.

HILL: Are the germs gone?


BRACHO-SANCHEZ: So unfortunately, the germs are not gone. But we've learned a number of things about how to keep ourselves and our friends safe in these past few months that we've been living through this pandemic. 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, right? So I want you to feel safe if your grownups choose to send you back to school. And if you don't feel safe and if you're scared, please let your grownups know so they can help you work through those fears. GUPTA: Yes. Good advice. And we have another question. This one is

from Louisiana. Let's take a look.


CLAIRE-ELIZABETH, NINE-YEARS-OLD, BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA: Do you think it is currently safe for me to return to school? What should we expect to experience? And do you think we'll ever return back to the way it used to be soon?


GUPTA: Topic number one in so many households. So, I think it depends what's going on in your particular community to determine whether or not it's safe to go back to school. If there's a lot of virus there still, maybe not yet. And keep in mind if you do go back to school, it is going to look and feel a little different, as Dr. Bracho-Sanchez was saying. You're going to wear masks. You're going to keep your distance. You're going to wash your hands a lot. We're eventually going to go back to normal. But I've got to say, I hope some things stay, like we should always keep washing our hands as much as possible. But good luck to you. Thanks for the question.

HILL: We also have a little something from our friend Ernie on Sesame Street. Ernie?


ERNIE, SESAME STREET: Let's get ready for back to school with this next question.

PAITYN, NINE-YEARS-OLD, YOUNGSVILLE, LOUISIANA: Are there any different or additional precautions that students should take as we approach flu season while we are still dealing with COVID-19 at the same time?


HILL: Dr. Edith, such a smart question I know so many families are talking about right now. Should we be approaching flu season differently this year because of COVID-19?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Yes. So I definitely hope that some of the measures that we are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will also help us to prevent this part of the flu, but if there's anything that we've learned in these past few months is that we need every tool we have. And when it comes to the flu, we also have a safe and effective vaccine, so this season it's more important than ever that we all go get our flu shots.

GUPTA: And it's not a bad time to start doing that now even over the next month or so. We have another question about masks from seven- year-old twins Parker and C.J. Let's take a look.


PARKER AND C.J., SEVEN YEARS OLD, MADISON, WISCONSIN: What's the proper mask etiquette?

PARKER AND C.J., SEVEN YEARS OLD, MADISON, WISCONSIN: Do we wear it for the entire day? Do we take it off at lunch? What if we sneeze in it? What do we do?


GUPTA: They are out-dressing us for sure.

HILL: They really are.

GUPTA: There's no question about etiquette with these two.

Look, this is an important question. There is proper mask etiquette. So, a couple points. You probably should take a couple masks there. Keep one, wear it all day. That's fine. If you need to switch it out, you can switch it out. If you're sneezing, by the way, if you're sick, you should stay home. But if it's one of those spontaneous sneezes, you can change your mask afterwards. That's why you bring a second one.

One thing you want to make sure is that you're wearing the mask right. You want to make it wear properly, so really get it over your nose and over your chin. Remember it's your nose and chin, not way down here or up higher or anything like that.

And you also want to make sure it's really effective. So take a look at this, kids. Here is a candle. Here is my mask. I'm going to try to blow this out. An effective mask you won't be able to do that. Now make sure if you're doing this experiment you have an adult close by, but that should help. And again, great outfits. Thank you, kids.

HILL: I know, they really are so dapper. I love it. Our pal Bert from Sesame Street is here with us this morning, too, and he has a little something.


BERT, SESAME STREET: Pencils down, class. It's time for a question.

MILES, NINE-YEARS-OLD, NEW YORK: I'm nervous, but mostly excited to see my friends again. Are there any fun ways that we can greet each other without hugging?


HILL: Oh my gosh, all these kids with their amazing setups this morning. I love it.


So Dr. Edith, what can kids do so they can greet their friends in a safe way? It's so great to get them back together.

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Yes. And I have to tell you, Erica, I miss hugging. I am a hugger, and I miss hugging. And we will eventually get back to a world in which we can hug our friends. But until then, I've seen some very creative ways to greet each other. I really like the elbow bump, where you both sort of raise your elbows and bump them. And I've also seen, Erica, foot shakes. Not handshakes but foot shakes. You kind of have to work on your balance to raise one foot and keep the other one on the ground. But try it out, kids.

HILL: It's a good little core workout at the same time.

GUPTA: The ankle bump, yes.


GUPTA: We've got another question. This one is from a teacher in Texas.


KRYSTLE RAGSTON, TEACHER, HEMPSTEAD, TEXAS: As a teacher and a parent, I'm concerned about the items that are transported from school to home. Should students, uniforms, masks, and cloth backpacks be washed as soon as they return home from school?


GUPTA: Yes, a common question. The good news is that 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 and things like that. The mask is a good thing to wash. Those cloth masks should be washed regularly. The other things you can wash with the normal frequency that you were doing before, but just keep in mind, you really want to, if somebody is sick, they're having any symptoms, any, obviously if they've tested positive, those are people that need to be isolated or quarantined.

And speaking of school supplies, though, I've got to tell you, Erica is with Big Bird and his big backpack.

HILL: Hey, Big Bird. What are you doing?

BIG BIRD: Oh, I'm going over my school checklist. There's some new things on here and I need to have them when I go to school.

HILL: Yes, what kinds of things are on your list, Big Bird?

BIG BIRD: Well, let's see. I have my pencils and paper and crayons. Oh, here's a new one. It's my mask. There it is right there. See that?

HILL: Oh, yes.

BIG BIRD: Yes. I wear it over my beak and it helps keep me and my teacher and my classmates all healthy.

HILL: Yes, that's right. Kids going into school definitely need to wear their mask to help limit the spread of germs.

BIG BIRD: Yes. And it felt weird to wear it at first, but now I barely even notice it.

HILL: Yes. I know what you mean. These are some of my kids' masks. And they had to get used to wearing them, too. In fact, our school even recommended that maybe kids should practice wearing them around the house so they're more comfortable wearing them. Big Bird, what else is on your list this year?

BIG BIRD: I have my books. Oh, and this.

HILL: What's that, Big Bird?

BIG BIRD: Well, this is called my distance stick. Yes, we made them at school during craft time. Everybody in my class has one to make sure we're staying the right distance apart. It's made from paper towel rolls, tape and construction paper.

HILL: That is such a neat idea, Big Bird.

BIG BIRD: There's a hand at the end here, so I can use it to wave at my friends. Hi, Erica.


HILL: Oh, Big Bird. I love that. Hi, Big Bird.


BIG BIRD: Hi. Oh, and we can still give each other high fives like this.

HILL: Oh, just like that. Perfect.


HILL: Oh, Big Bird, that is such a great idea. So, tell me what else is on your school list?

BIG BIRD: Oh, let's see. OK, wipes for when I eat lunch at my desk. And of course, I have wing sanitizer. That's very important.

HILL: Wing sanitizer is very important. I know a lot of schools when they can are providing some of those supplies, but just like you, I'm putting some extras in my boy's bags, Weston and Sawyer, so that they're ready to go. It's a ready for school bag.

BIG BIRD: Ready for school bag?

HILL: Yes. So in this bag I've got a lot of the things that you have. Hand sanitizer, not for wings but probably still works. I've also got some wipes, just like you. And also an extra mask.

BIG BIRD: Oh, wow. That's a great way to make sure that you don't forget anything and are always ready for school.

HILL: Another thing that's going to happen before you go into school, Big Bird, is you'll get your temperature checked. And a grownup will ask you how you're feeling, if you're feeling sick.

BIG BIRD: Oh, yes. And then if you're sick, don't go to school.

HILL: That's so important, Big Bird. You're right. And remember, it's OK to be sick and it's OK to not go to school because you want to make sure you stay home to rest and feel better so you don't get anyone else sick.

BIG BIRD: Yes, that's right. And before you know it, you'll be feeling better and back to school.

HILL: That's right, Big Bird. Big bird, thanks so much for showing us everything on your school ready list. I would say you are ready for school on Monday.

BIG BIRD: I think so, too, Erica.


GUPTA: All right, let's get to another question now for Dr. Edith. This is from Giuliana in Vermont.


GIULIANA, SIX-YEARS-OLD, RUTLAND, VERMONT: When can we have birthday parties again?



GUPTA: Dr. Edith, kids have to be careful in school. We just talked about that. But playdates, birthday parties as well, right?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: That's absolutely right. I think it is OK to have playdates and birthday parties, but we're going to have to have them outside. We're still going to remember to keep our distance and wear our masks. We can't let our guard down, not even when we're celebrating.

HILL: So we can still celebrate, right? That's the great thing. We also have a question from Jordan in New York.


JORDAN, 12-YEARS-OLD, NEW YORK: What happens if one of my friends gets the coronavirus? And what what are the consequences for the rest of us?


HILL: Such an important question and I know something that a lot of families are grappling with right now. So what if Jordan has a friend who gets coronavirus?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: That's right. So I think what happens is going to depend on how close he was to this friend who gets coronavirus. If they were in the same classroom, they're likely all going to have to be sent home so they can clean the school and so they can figure out who was exposed and if anyone else got sick. I think in that time it's going to be really important to remember to check in with that friend who got sick because they might be really scared. And it also is important to remember that we ourselves have to stay home until we've been cleared either by a doctor or the day care, the school says it's OK to go back to school.

GUPTA: Yes. And I should point out as well because this has been a little confusing sometimes. If you've had -- if you've been in contact with somebody who is known to have the coronavirus, the COVID, you should get tested as well, even if you don't have symptoms. I know there's been back and forth on that. But that is the best guidance, right, Dr. Edith?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: That's absolutely right. And hopefully you live in a community where testing is quick and it is accessible to everyone.

HILL: Absolutely. Well, before we say goodbye, Dr. Edith, I know you have one more message for all the families watching this morning.

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: That's right. So, I really want to remind everyone watching that while we all are thinking about COVID-19, there's a number of things that we can and should do to keep kids safe that are beyond COVID-19, right? So now is the time to come visit us, the pediatricians, and get up to date on all your vaccines, get kid's eyes checked, get them to the dentist, right? We want to make sure that they can see, that they don't have cavities, so they can learn.

And now is also the time to remember that some kids are in a really vulnerable position. Some kids may be experiencing hunger and homelessness. So now is the time to come together as communities to help those really vulnerable families so they, too, can learn.

GUPTA: Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, thank you so much. And thank you all, guys. I'm so proud of you. People don't know this but you were one of my fellows at one point, and I'm so proud of you. Thanks for being here today.

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Thank you so, so much.

HILL: So great. And I love learning that little bit of history, too, Sanjay.

Sanjay, we actually have another important question. This one is for you and it comes from Agnes in Washington, D.C. Go ahead, Agnes.


AGNES, EIGHT-YEARS-OLD, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Why haven't they found a cure for the coronavirus? What if there isn't a cure?


GUPTA: Such a good question, Agnes. It is true we don't have a cure for the coronavirus yet, but doctors and scientists are working hard to create a vaccine. Vaccine helps your body actually --


GROVER, SESAME STREET: Did someone say help? I, your friendly neighborhood monster hero Super Grover am here to help.

GUPTA: Super Grover, how are you doing? It's good to see you. I was actually just telling everyone how vaccines help our bodies.

GROVER: Vaccines, well, you are in luck. I know all about vaccines.

GUPTA: Really?

GROVER: Yes. Vaccines are when -- well, they're sort of like how -- you know, Dr. Sanjay, this is your show. I do not want to step on any toes. Why do you not tell everyone what vaccines are, huh?

GUPTA: I would love to, Super Grover. Thank you.

Our bodies are great at fighting off all sorts of different germs and infections. In fact, each one of us in some ways could be considered a superhero.

GROVER: Ah, you do not have to tell me. Just look at the strong, fit body.

GUPTA: You look great, Super Grover, for sure.

GROVER: Thank you.

GUPTA: Inside all of our bodies we have these different defenses like antibodies that work to prevent us from getting sick. They are teeny, tiny, and you can only really see them under a microscope.

GROVER: Hello in there. Keep helping and protecting me, my super body.

GUPTA: But sometimes our bodies need a little extra help. You can think of it in some ways as added protection, like a sword and a shield.

GROVER: Or a cape?

GUPTA: Yes, something that gives our superhero bodies a little extra boost. Vaccines let our bodies practice defending ourselves, making our immune system stronger so the next time we see the virus we know how to beat it.

GROVER: And stay healthy, too, to keep saving the day.


GUPTA: That's right, Super Grover. Even superheroes need a little help sometimes. And while scientists and doctors work around the clock to give us that extra boost, we all need to do our best to stay healthy as well.

GROVER: We can all be health heroes by wearing our mask, staying six feet apart, eating healthy, exercising, and drinking plenty of water.

GUPTA: That's right. That's right. And if you aren't feeling well, tell an adult and stay home. You'll be able to get rest and keep others healthy.

GROVER: Well, Dr. Sanjay, I am off to help a cat stuck in a tree, someone open a pickle jar, and find a lost TV remote. Up, up and away. I do not suppose there is a flying vaccine yet, is there? Looks like I could use a little help.

GUPTA: Not yet, Super Grover. I don't think so.

GROVER: Until then, I guess I will walk. Walk, walk and away.

HILL: Coming up next, we'll talk about making the most of remote learning.

BIG BIRD: And we'll check in with my friend, Rosita, who has a friend craft that you can make for your at-home school.

GUPTA: We have a lot more answers and advice as well to all of your questions, so stay tuned.



MAX, EIGHT-YEARS-OLD, MIAMI: Distance learning can be really hard for me. But I know my teachers are working really hard to keep me safe. And I'm looking forward to going to school in person.

ABBY, FOUR-YEARS-OLD, SESAME STREET: School is so magical. I'm so excited for my arts and crafts with my art teacher. I can't wait to add more drawings to my art wall.

SANIYA, 10-YEARS-OLD: I can't wait to take more Mandarin classes.

BIG BIRD: I'm excited to see my friends at school. Even though we're apart, we're still connected. And I can give my classmates a Big Bird wave.



HILL: Welcome back to "The ABC's of Back to School." Across the country, children are continuing to distance learn at home.

GUPTA: That's right, Erica. My children started the school year taking part in distance learning this school year, and so is Rosita from Sesame Street.

HILL: Let's check in with Rosita now. Hi, Rosita.

ROSITA: Hola, Dr. Sanjay. Hi, Erica.


GUPTA: Hey, Rosita. What are you doing?

ROSITA: OK, I'm doing great. And you know why. I'm just finishing my at-home classroom.

HILL: Oh. Rosita, could you show that to us?

ROSITA: Let me move my phone here and let me show you. Look. I made my own desk just like at school. It has my name on it. And these are drawings I did during arts and craft. Can you see them? And this is my school schedule, yes. And here is my pappy's computer I use to see my teacher and classmates. And I have my pencils and crayons here. And here is my activities that my teacher sends me.

GUPTA: I got to say, that's a pretty great-looking desk, Rosita.

ROSITA: Muchas gracias. You know what, I made it out of cardboard we had in the house. Yes. It makes me feel like I'm at school even while I'm at home. And it's great, Doctor, because I can set it up on the kitchen table or in my living room or here in my room.

HILL: So wherever you are, you can bring it with you. And it looks, Rosita, like it could really help you concentrate on your school work at home.

ROSITA: It really does.

GUPTA: I think it's so important, it's such a good point that kids who are learning at home, they need to know and feel that school is separate from their home life. And setting up a learning area or a desk can help reinforce that separation. Also, I got to tell you, it's important that they still follow a school routine.

ROSITA: Oh, yes. Yes, yes. Like getting dressed in the morning.


GUPTA: Yes, exactly. I got to tell you, even though my children have mostly been at home. They still try and follow their normal school day morning routine as much as I can get them to do so. They wake up. They do get dressed. And I try and feed them a healthy breakfast.

ROSITA: Yes. Like oatmeal or cereal with yummy berries.

GUPTA: Right. I think the key is to help get them in the mindset that even though they are home, it's still a school day.

ROSITA: Yes. You're right.

HILL: Rosita, how is the distance learning going for you? Are you enjoying it?

ROSITA: Well, you know what, I miss going to school and seeing my friends. But I talked to my mommy and my pappy, and they said that having school at home is the best way to keep our whole family, especially my abuela, healthy.

HILL: Well, that seems like a really good way to look at it, Rosita.

GUPTA: Rosita, thank you for showing us your desk as well. Have a great school year.

ROSITA: Muchas gracias. Adios, amigos.

HILL: Bye, Rosita.


HILL: Joining us now to talk more about how kids can get the best education wherever and however they're learning this year, please welcome educator Sal Khan and Andrea Jemmott. Andrea is teaching in- person kindergarten in Jacksonville, Florida. It's so great to have both of you with us this morning.

GUPTA: Welcome.

HILL: Yes, thanks for being here. We have first up a question about something I think so many parents are struggling with right now. Take a listen.


MIHIRI WILLIAMS, ELIZABETH, NEW JERSEY: What strategies can parents use to keep their kids interested or focused on virtual learning while also working from home?


HILL: Oh, Sal, please answer this one for me, too.


SAL KHAN, FOUNDER AND CEO, KHAN ACADEMY: That's a good one. I think this is something adults need to stay focused on virtual work sometimes, too. There's two ideas I can think of. One is this technique to deal with procrastination called the after pomodoro technique tomato timer. And what it is is you set a time where you stay focused, and then you force yourself a break. Even if you could keep working, you force yourself a break. And psychologically everyone can say, oh, I can surely do another 20, I can surely do another 30 minutes. And then when you take that forced break, you're ready to dive in again.

Some of this can be in coordination with the teachers to think about how to make those video conference sessions a little more flexible, but it definitely works on the self-paced work that kids have to do.

Another idea is something we have been doing at Khan Academy called On refresh, these are ideas to mix it up. In between your academic work, when you're taking those breaks, these could be fun things for students to do on their own or to do in a group with their teachers. Draw an elephant without looking, or who would you like to meet if you had to meet anyone for dinner in history.


So there's these fun things that mix it up a little bit and break up the monotony of distance learning sometimes.

GUPTA: That's really good advice. I think for kids, but I'm going to do some of that as well, Sal. That's terrific.

Let's check in with our friend Abby Cadabby now from Sesame Street.


ABBY: Here is a student with a great back to school question.

OLIVER, FIVE-YEARS-OLD, HILTON HEAD, SOUTH CAROLINA: Can my new kindergarten teacher hug me if I get scared?


GUPTA: These kids are so cute. Andrea, what do you think about that?

ANDREA JEMMOTT, LEAD KINDERGARTEN TEACHER, KIPP VOICE ACADEMY: Well, first of all, thank you so much for asking that question. And I'm sure lots of other kids are wondering the same exact thing. So I want to say always ask your teacher if it's OK to hug first, OK? It's OK to be scared and it's OK to need a hug. Ask your teacher if it's OK to hug first. I know here at Camp Jacksonville, teachers decided over the summer if a student came up and hugged us, we would definitely hug back. Sometimes we can't stop them. They're coming full force with a hug, and we hug them.

But we also have taught them other ways to comfort themselves, like air fives. We do elbow bumps. We wink. But the big favorite here is the air hug. So if you feel like you need a hug, ask your teacher and then get an air hug. I hope that makes you feel less scared.

HILL: That's great advice. I have to say just listening to you makes me feel more calm.

Our next question is one that we got from a lot of parents with children who are virtual learning this year. Take a listen.


CINDY MARTE, NEW YORK: How can I keep my daughter excited about learning while at home? I'm a single mother, and she doesn't have any siblings, so she misses that interaction with her teachers and with her classmates.


HILL: It's such a great point. I think so many parents have struggled with that. You want to keep your kids engaged, but you also want them to socialize because that's such an important part of their development, too, Sal. KHAN: Yes. Another very good question. All learning, whether you're

doing it distance learning or eventually, hopefully, in-person learning, it becomes more engaging, more interesting if you feel like you can apply it. It feels useful somehow. One of the few advantages of distance learning is that as a parent you can kind of eavesdrop a little bit on what kids are learning. Try to ask them about it. When you're having lunch together, when you're having dinner, say, hey, I heard you talking about photosynthesis. Tell me more about that. That will make the kids perk up a little bit and say, oh, you're interested in that.

You can also try to learn alongside your child. That will also signal to them that what they're learning is really important and something worth learning because even your parents are intrigued.

HILL: And what about engaging in terms of in that classroom. Since we're not in the classroom, raising hands, maybe because they are trying to raise their hands on a video, in a video class. How do you handle that as a teacher, Sal?

KHAN: Yes. Well, I think there's two things. I think as a parent or a student, if you feel like your child isn't able to engage, observe what other students are doing. I think this is a really good time to have good conversations with teachers. Make them respectful conversations. A lot of people are kind of over their heads right now, feeling anxious. Don't project that on to the teacher.

But I think this is a time where if you have a two-way conversation, have feedback, say, hey, I've noticed some kids aren't able to participate as much. I know a lot of teachers are making sure -- I've run a couple virtual sessions with kids, and I keep a little check box of who I've called on and who I've not to make sure I get to everyone.

GUPTA: Great advice. I think we have another message now coming from Sesame Street. Rosita, let's hear it.


ROSITA: That means someone has another back to school question.

KAMEIL GRANT-KNIGHT, NEW YORK: How do I reassure my child who is social and outgoing to maintain appropriate social distancing when engaging with her classmates?


GUPTA: Andrea, I think we've got to toss that one to you. Again, these kids want to be together, but you need to maintain that physical distance I'll call it. What advice do you have?

JEMMOTT: Well, yes. This is absolutely a very important question to address with your child and be thinking about as parents for a child's social and emotional development. Keeping our distance is definitely important. And that's going to be a part of some of the things that we have to do. But absolutely, let them be their authentic selves. If they're outgoing, reassure them it's OK to be outgoing, because guess what, in our classrooms now, those of us that are in school, we need that. Those are the friends that amplify the joy and bring the joy, and we need that when there's a lot of heavy.

You can also, with that in mind, encourage your child to use their words more than their physical touch or hands for being an outgoing person. Words have power. So, if they're able to affirm their friends, affirm themselves, their teachers or their classroom community, that is great.


So, that's one way you can get that joy out without being so physically close to people and still staying safe, which is something we do in my classroom every single day.

GUPTA: Thank you. I think you are definitely one of these kindergarten teachers that I'm sure no one every forgets, Andrea. Thank you very much.

HILL: I was just thinking the same thing. I kind of want to be in your kindergarten class this year, Andrea, actually.


HILL: We have another question. This is from 10-year-old Lyla. She's from Georgia.


LYLA, 10-YEARS-OLD, CUMMING, GEORGIA: My school let us choose between virtual and face-to-face. I chose virtual. How am I supposed to stay in touch with my friends who are doing face-to-face and not feel left out?


HILL: Sal, how do you tackle that one?

KHAN: Well, there's two things. One, you could give ideas for your teacher. So while you're doing virtual learning and maybe your kids -- your friends are physically present, to do a couple icebreaker exercises regardless of the subject, to do five, 10 minute there makes a huge difference. And then outside of the virtual classes, try to get together with them either virtually on video conference, maybe half- an-hour a day, time to catch up. And if you can in a socially distanced way, meet at a park or have a socially distanced outdoor play date is a great way. That's what my kids are doing to stay socially engaged with their friends.

HILL: Sal Khan, Andrea Jemmott, thank you both for joining us today. Some great advice, and, man, you just make me feel a lot better as a mom. So thank you. I hope everybody at home is feeling the same way, too.

Let's head over now to our co-host Big Bird.

BIG BIRD: We have a lot more on back to school coming up, but first, my friend Oscar the Grouch has a message about wearing your mask.


OSCAR THE GROUCH, SESAME STREET: Oscar the grouch here to tell you, yes, you, to wear a mask out in public around other people. Sure, it will keep you healthy, but more importantly, I won't have to see your happy smiling face. And if you don't want to wear a mask, I've just got one thing to tell you -- scram. Go away.



MELANIA TRUMP, U.S. FIRST LADY: Hello to all of the children and parents joining us today. I want to wish all of you a wonderful school year, whether you're going back in person or online, this is an important time of year. Each of you have a bright future, and if you work hard, you will grow up to be whatever you want to be. So do your schoolwork, listen to your parents and teachers, and be kind to your classmates. School can be hard sometimes. But remember, you have something very special to offer, and we are all here to help you succeed. The president and I wish you a safe, healthy, and successful school year. May God bless you and your families, and may God bless the United States of America.

DR. JILL BIDEN, JOE BIDEN'S WIFE: Hi, friends. As we head back to school, just like Elmo, Big Bird, and Rosita, I want all of you to know that teachers like me are so excited to welcome you back. Parents, hang in there. You're doing great. And to the educators, thank you. Our students need us more than ever, and I've never been prouder to be a teacher. Have a great school year, wear your masks, and stay safe.


HILL: Welcome back to "The ABC's of Back to School," and a special thank you for those very special messages from the first lady and from Dr. Jill Biden.

GUPTA: Yes. And we also want to thank all of you at home. We've been sending in so many amazing questions, trying to get to "The ABC's of Back to School."

HILL: Now we'd like to check in with Rudy from Sesame Street who is also getting ready to head back to school.


RUDY, SESAME STREET: Hi, Erica, and hi, Dr. Gupta. I'm just getting ready to go back to school this week. There's a lot to remember. Let me see. On Mondays do I learn at school or do I learn at home? And what do I do if I forget my mask? Or what if I can't use the computer because Abby is using the computer? I don't know what to do.

ABBY: Rudy, Rudy. What's wrong?

RUDY: Oh, Abby. All these changes are just -- they're too hard. I give up.

ABBY: Give up? But Rudy, you love preschool.

RUDY: Yes, but that was before it got to be so different. I mean, if I mix everything up, what do I do?

ABBY: It's OK, Rudy. Remember what mommy taught us to help us calm down. Let's belly breathe. OK?

RUDY: OK. OK. Hands on my belly.

ABBY: Deep breath in.


ABBY: And then slowly breathe out. See?

RUDY: Yes. I want to do it again.

ABBY: OK, here we go. Slow, deep breath in.

RUDY: And deep breath out.

ABBY: There now little brother. Do you feel better?

RUDY: I do. Oh, but I'm still nervous about school.

ABBY: I know. There is a lot to remember. Hey, but look, we have this. See, it's a schedule.

RUDY: Schedule? What's a schedule?

ABBY: Look, it helps us to know when to go to school and when we're learning at home. See? Mommy helped me make it. I drew all the pictures. Look on the days of the drawing of the school, that's when we learn at school.

RUDY: And the days with the house is when we learn at home.

ABBY: Yes, that's right.

RUDY: Wow. Oh, and look. There's a drawing of a mask.


ABBY: And that's so we remember to wear our masks at preschool.

RUDY: Oh, OK. Oh, hey, Abby, what's that one?

ABBY: Those are pancakes.

RUDY: Pancake Saturday?

ABBY: Yes, that's right. There's no school today, Rudy.

RUDY: Yes. And now we have our schedule to help. Thanks, sis. ABBY: So, come on. It's pancake time.

RUDY: Yes, pancake time.



HILL: Thanks, Abby and Rudy. I love pancake time, and belly breathing, of course.

GUPTA: Yes. The belly breathing always helps for sure. And remember to smile every now and then. It's OK to laugh even a little bit. I know we've had some big feelings during this pandemic, Erica. All of us have.

HILL: That we have. And joining us now to talk more about those big feelings that both kids and adults are having around back to school, please welcome Akimi Gibson, who is the vice president and education publisher at Sesame Workshop, that's the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, and Talia Filippelli, a clinical social worker and the founder of Starr Therapy. It's great to have both of you with us this morning to help us tackle our big feelings.

Talia, back to school is always exciting, a little nerve racking, but of course more so this year with kids learning in new ways, and so many people lives have really been drastically changed over the past six months. Their family may have relocated, maybe they've lost a job, they've lost a loved one. It is a lot. So Talia, how do we start to handle all of these emotions?

TALIA FILIPPELLI, LICENSED CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER AND FOUNDER, STARR THERAPY: Yes. And Erica, everything you just said I'm sure every person watching this feels exactly that. My take-home message for all of the parents that I work with, and I hope that will be the take-home message today, is what we're going through right now, we need to reframe it. We need to think a little differently about what we're facing. So rather than seeing this as a huge problem, let's reframe it and talk about it as a challenge. If you're like me, when I think problem, I think, oh, I get intimidated. I get scared. I wonder if it's going to be permanent. When I reframe it and think about something as a challenge, it sort of comes with this inherent feeling that we can do something to work through it, that it doesn't have to be so permanent. That maybe it can actually be temporary, and we can rise up and achieve something here.

So I try to help parents reframe it, think of it as a challenge that we can work through. And to me that's the breeding ground for resiliency, which is one of the best things that we can help our kids come out of COVID-19 with some skills in.

GUPTA: Yes. And we are going to get through this together, not sure when, but we will get through this. Let's get to a question now from a parent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAHLIA LEVINE, WASHINGTON D.C.: How will schools mitigate the loss of social, emotional skills that kindergarten students aren't able to strengthen through virtual learning?


GUPTA: Akimi, I think about this all the time. I think this is a tough one. Kindergarten is such a critical age for social development, for brain development, even if you're seeing other kids and they have masks on. What advice would you have?

AKIMI GIBSON, VICE PRESIDENT AND EDUCATION PUBLISHER, SESAME WORKSHOP: Well, I think it would be two sources of advice, Sanjay and Dahlia. Good morning. One would be that schools know the critical importance of socially, emotional learning. They understand how children have to learn how to manage their emotions as well as build positive relationships and resiliencies. We have seen schools incorporate social, emotional development right into the curriculum. Inside their literacy curriculum is everyday routines of learning. We've also seen schools reach out to families and bring in families as partners in social and emotional learning. So as we've just seen, Rudy and Abby exemplify for us those everyday moments are indeed building these critical skills.

HILL: We have another question now from a concerned parent. Take a look.


AMANDA ORTIZ, GREELEY, COLORADO: My husband and I work full-time jobs. My kids were doing remote learning, but we're getting nothing out of it. So we sent them back to the in-school environment. How do we make them feel safe being inside of a building when there's so many other people there?


HILL: So Talia, how do parents go about protecting their kids, reducing their anxiety? We know schools are doing a lot to help reduce that, but parents play a role here, too.

FILIPPELLI: Definitely. I think parents have some of the hardest jobs in the world, right? And it's so hard to see our kids struggling. I know for me I saw my three-year-old have to be peeled off of me to go to school this week. He was very afraid and reluctant to go. And to me those are the hardest moments. That's when we usually want to swoop in and save our kids from having to feel those feelings. But really these are moments where they're learning, OK, I can be a little scared, but I can also be brave and go and do it. And then once they do, they reflect on that and say, wow, I was scared but I actually conquered that. It can be a huge moment for confidence-building.


And I think that parents in those moments feel like they have to solve their kid's feelings. Your kids don't need that. 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. So if we can lead with confidence and optimism, our kids will soak that in. It will help those tough emotions come down a little bit, and that's where bravery steps in and they can go and do it and feel confident as a result.

GUPTA: Yes. I think it's quite possible kids could end up more resilient as a result of all this. I know it's tough, but that could be one positive consequence.

Our feathered co-anchor now has something for us. Take it away, Big Bird.

BIG BIRD: A little birdie told me someone has a back to school question. Oh.


ZOE, FIVE-YEARS-OLD, NASHVILLE: How can I make friends when they can't see my face or my smile?


GUPTA: Akimi, this gets back to the same thing, I think, this idea of how we're interacting in a different way. But what about the masks specifically? It does take away a lot of those non-verbal cues.

GIBSON: Yes. First of all, such a thoughtful question Zoe asked, and on behalf of all children out there who probably have the exact same question, Zoe. We know that, first of all, mask wearing is a sign of friendship. You're helping your friends stay safe and healthy.

And did you know we can show our smiles even beneath our masks. Our cheeks rise up, our eyes get smaller, and there's so many other cues, so many other signals we can provide. And a couple other tips there, Zoe. One other tip is maybe there's a new way to greet your friends. Maybe it's a virtual and air high five, or an elbow bump. And potentially my favorite one is using your kind words, inviting your friends in to play a game with you. I just know, I'm confident that this year will be filled with a lot of new friends for you, Zoe.

HILL: I love that. So reassuring. With kids going back to school, with parents working, staying connected, as we know, is more important than ever. So here with a message on keeping your family connected is Daniel from Sesame Street.


DANIEL, EMT, SESAME STREET: Hey, I'm Daniel, Julia and Samuel's dad. Like everyone, we're all dealing with a lot right now. And it's been a real challenge transitioning back into our old routines. Kids are going back to school in different ways, and parents are going back to work. As an EMT, I have been working some long hours. But on my days off, I have loved being able to spend time with the kids.

But now with them going back to school, it's been kind of hard for me having days off without them at home. And I know going back to school has been tough for them, too, especially my daughter Julia, who has autism. We've had to practice wearing our masks at home for when she goes to school. And with the changing schedule of going to school some days and learning from home the other days, it's been really tricky to settle on a new routine, especially after being home with her parent for so long.

Look, I'll be honest, I miss her being home, too. But together our family has come up with a way for us all to stay connected -- this bracelet. Isn't it sweet? Julie and Samuel made them for everybody in the family, so any time we feel apart or miss each other, we can look at our bracelets and know we're all wearing them.


HILL: Thanks, Daniel. Talia, families have spent so much time together over these past months, and now, of course, everybody is starting to do their own thing, go back to routines. What are some ways to help manage that separation?

FILIPPELLI: So like I said before, I'm experiencing this in my own home. And, in a circumstance where everything feels so uncertain and so out of our control, the number one thing we actually do have control over is our bond with our kids. So one of the things that I recommend to everybody in order to help heal some of that separation fear that our kids are experiencing is 10 minutes of uninterpreted time with our kids every single day. If we can do that, it will help mitigate some of that fear about separating, and to make sure that we're reassuring them that separation doesn't mean that we're gone forever.

And I have to remind my three-year-old, I'll be back at 3:00 to pick you up. In the video, too, they talked a little bit about maybe an item that your child can take with them that they can keep in their backpack that helps them feel connected to you, something small, something that's not a big distraction but that can live in their backpack with them when they go to and from school is a great way to help mitigate that feeling.

HILL: Great advice. Talia Filippelli, Akimi Gibson, thank you both for your thoughtful answers to everyone's questions this morning. We really appreciate your time today.


GUPTA: Our back to school town hall is coming to a close. Things may be changing daily, but do remember, we're all in this together. And we all want our children to be safe and healthy and also get the best education possible.

HILL: We'd also like to thank the Walton Family Foundation whose generous contribution helped to make this back to school town hall possible, and special thanks as well to all our experts, and of course, a very big thank you to our co-host Big Bird and to all of our friends on Sesame Street.

BIG BIRD: Well, thank you for having me, Erica. I learned a lot, even on a Saturday.


BIG BIRD: Hey, my friends and I have a message to all the students, teachers, and faculty out there.

ELMO: OK, everybody. One, two, three -- have a great school year.



ELMO: Bye-bye. Have fun at school. Elmo loves you.