‘Sesame Street’ for Navajos

New show will use puppets to teach Diné Bizaad


Ladies pose in front of loom with puppet.

Courtesy photo
From left to right, Dine Bi Na’Alkid Time puppet Nanabah, who is fluent in Navajo, with co-writers Shawna Begay and Charmaine Jackson.

“How can you teach the language?” questioned Shawna Begay when she first thought of developing “Diné Bi Na’alkid Time” (Navajo movie time), a show that will utilize a “Sesame Street” format to teach Diné Bizaad.

Something Begay wished she had growing up saying maybe then she would be able to speak the Navajo language. “I was really inspired by ‘Sesame Street’ because I grew up watching ‘Sesame Street,’” Begay said. “They do a lot of research in curriculum development and so I kind of use that as a model.”

“Sesame Street” is a PBS children’s TV show that uses puppets of animals and made-up creatures to teach children how to count, what different words are and much more. There are also human characters in the show.

This type of programming is often referred to as “edutainment,” a word that combines education and entertainment. “Diné Bi Na’alkid Time” will utilize a similar format of puppets and human characters to teach the Navajo language. Right now, they have three puppets: Nanabah, a young girl who is fluent in Navajo; Gah, a rabbit; and Dloo, a prairie dog. In the future, they would love to add more characters including one that is learning to speak Navajo for Dine Bizaad learners to relate to.

All of these production decisions were based on Begay’s own doctoral research. Begay, from Window Rock, recently graduated with an “unplanned” doctorate degree in education technology from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. “When I fell into my doctoral degree by accident,” Begay said with a laugh, “I thought ‘Well, let me see if I can apply,’ and I got in.”

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Categories: Culture

About Author

Pauly Denetclaw

Pauly Denetclaw is Meadow People born for Towering House People. She was raised in Manuelito and Naschitti, New Mexico. She was the co-recipient of the Native American Journalist Association's 2016 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting. Denetclaw is currently finishing her degree in multimedia journalism from the University of New Mexico - Main. Denetclaw covers a range of topics including genetic research, education, health, social justice issues and small businesses. She loves coffee, writing and being with her family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her handle is @pdineclah