Big Bird
© Reuters / Stephen Lam
Sesame Street's Big Bird speaks during an Apple special event in Cupertino, California, March 25, 2019
Preparing your kids for school this fall? Well don't forget their pencils, lunchboxes, and "distance sticks." That's what the vaguely dystopian advice from Sesame Street's Big Bird tells families watching CNN.

In a coronavirus town hall for kids and parents broadcast on Saturday, CNN enlisted the help of Sesame Street's Big Bird to help kids understand the raft of new restrictions they'll face when schools open their doors again this month.

Asked what he's packing in his schoolbag, the kids' TV favorite listed off the usual essentials - "pencils, paper and crayons" - as well as a mask, hand sanitizer, wipes, and a "distancing stick," a handcrafted stick to poke away kids who get too close.


The segment was celebrated online by some parents, but the mention of a "distancing stick" raised a few eyebrows.




The idea isn't a new one. Chinese students returning to school in April did so wearing winged "one-meter hats," a wearable reminder to stay at arm's length from each other. What was then an offbeat news story from China has since become an example of the 'new normal' throughout the western world. Masks and plexiglass dividers are common in American elementary schools, and government advisers in Britain have warned that children may experience "anxiety" and "nightmares" upon their return to a socially-distanced, Covid-proofed classroom.

American schools too have snapped up surveillance technology, like thermal imaging cameras with mask detection and face identification functions. Some have gone as far as fitting children with electronic tracking beacons, to determine whether the kids are obeying social distancing rules.

In Ireland, children who exhibited symptoms at one school in Athlone were banished to a garden shed in the school yard, prompting an outcry from parents. At least in the "isolation shed" they won't need to use their distancing sticks.