Freedman Center for Child & Family Development
Primary Project is a nationally known preventative mental health program. It is a school-based early intervention and prevention program that enhances social, emotional, behavioral and learning skills and reduces social, emotional and school adjustment difficulties in pre-school through primary grade children. (See www.childrensinstitute.net). Children are identified through the use of carefully developed screening and detection methods. Evaluation studies show that Primary Project helps children become more productive in school (Cowen, et al., 1996; Nafpaktitis and Perlmutter, 1998). Children at risk of, but not experiencing social-emotional or school adjustment problems, meet weekly during the school year with a Child Associate to engage in an individual child-led expressive play session. During the individual play session, the young child chooses among such activities as blocks, puppets, art, games, and high interest books. In this playful setting, children become aware of their feelings, experience a sense of acceptance, enjoy supportive interaction with the CA and develop positive feelings about their school experience.
At MSPP's Freedman Center we offer a unique version of Primary Project. We use both graduate students and high school students as CA's. The Child Associates utilize developmentally appropriate child-led play as the vehicle for support, prevention and intervention. As research supports and indicates the model of using young adults as mentors for younger children contributes to both age groups overall development. Specifically, reports of improved self-esteem, leadership skill development and better relationships with peers are evident. As partial preparation for becoming a CA, both the high school students and graduate students participate in a course on the methodology of Primary Project.The CA's are closely supervised by faculty of MSPP as they participate in the 12 week Primary Project experience at a local elementary school.
The MSPP Freedman Center version of Primary Project has received accolades attesting to it’s effectiveness from school systems we have served. Principal of Kilmer Elementary School says: “One of the great things about Primary Project is that it is truly preventive. These young children are not yet in trouble, but without this extra attention they could fall through the cracks.” Principal of the Brook Farm High School Academy adds: “It has given these teens a sense of true responsibility and a great deal of confidence.”