September 2021


Tips for Primary Project Programs

As we prepare for the new school year ahead, we are grateful that this year is different than where we were a year ago. A welcome relief! Hopefully, there have been some valuable learnings from this past year that you may incorporate in your Primary Project programs!  As we approach this year with renewed energy, hope, and optimism, below are some helpful reminders of program activities:  

  1. Do a careful review of playroom materials: Toys serve as the medium that allows children to explore relationships, express feelings, and understand themselves.  Therefore, we carefully select what we include in the playroom! Toys included in the playroom are expressive – meaning there is no right or wrong way to play with them.  Whether you will be providing weekly sessions and allowing students to use the whole playroom, an individual bin created with just the right amount of materials, or perhaps a hybrid of both, it is important that each year we examine what we have since the materials/toys are a significant therapeutic variable.  
  2. Set a timeline of activities for the year: It is always helpful to have a roadmap!  A timeline for the year helps to keep you moving forward and prepare for the activities that lie ahead. For example, identify dates of when you plan to have teachers screen students and what grade levels. You may also want to identify when you anticipate meeting with teachers to select students, obtain parent permission, and pinpoint a target date of when your program anticipates getting started with students. When you have these initial activities planned, you can begin to think about when you will be collecting data, anticipate when your first cycle of students will end, and when you can expect the second cycle of students to begin. Remember it is a tentative timeline – you may need to adjust as you go, but it is helpful in navigating the program year.
  3. COMET setup: If you are using COMET for screening and other data collection, it is important that you reach out to Schools are required to sign a Statement of Work annually, outlining usage and assessment measures/tools that will be used. This is what prompts COMET to activate the account and ensure that the appropriate measures are there for use. Once you connect with the COMET team you can work with them to identify any additional training, support, or setup needs.  
  4. Meet as a team: Teamwork makes the dreamwork! This is a great opportunity to focus on what is needed for the year. Some ideas might include: What is needed for supplies, training needs, program orientation/professional development around Primary Project for building staff, data evaluation/reports review, parent engagement, etc. This is also a great time to identify weekly supervision time to be reoccurring in your calendars.  

As always, we are here to help support your program. Feel free to reach out with any questions!
Lynn Smith ( and Shelley Sanyshyn (

Bringing the Lessons Home

Parenting these days has required flexibility, creativity, dedication, and persistence. Over the last 17 months we have adjusted, adapted, gotten into a routine to then readjust. These constant changes have probably made us second guess our abilities as parents, question how effective our parenting is, and how supportive we are to our children. As children prepare for a new school year, most likely one that will be different than the last school year, how we continue to support their school experiences has not changed. Here are some helpful tips for you as parents/caregivers to keep in mind:

  1. Meet your child’s teacher: If your school does not have an orientation night or meet and greet, find ways to connect with your child’s teacher. Now with an increase in technology it is equally as easy to meet virtually as well as in person.  This meeting allows you to introduce yourself, ask questions about the year ahead, share with them some of your child’s strengths and what they like to do, and how they will keep you informed of your child’s progress.
  2. Support expectations for schoolwork outside of school: This includes completing homework assignments, reading, or other learning apps that may be available to your child.  Find a space and time that is dedicated and away from distractions for your child to complete these tasks.   
  3. Take advantage of opportunities for parent involvement: Find ways you can support the teacher and class by volunteering at school, sending in snacks, or participate in other school-wide events and organizations. Check in with your child’s teacher to see how you can help and what the best fit is for you.  
  4. Support your child’s social and emotional well-being as well as academics: If you have a concern regarding your child’s health you reach out to his or her doctor.  Similarly, if you have concerns regarding how your child is fairing academically, socially, and emotionally a great place to check in is both with his/her teacher and the school social worker, counselor, or psychologist. They are there to provide you with resources, and if additional support is needed, can share options and guide you.  
  5. Be a positive role model: Model protective behavior, teach children to follow safety protocols, and praise them for caring and showing concern for others. Discuss what’s going on in the world in a way that honors your child’s developmental status. If they are to experience hope, optimism, and gratitude, it will be because we show it to them.

As a parent, you are your child's first and most important teacher. When parents and families are involved in their children's schools, the children do better and have better feelings about going to school.

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Primary Project Research Efforts

We are excited to share with our Primary Project partners that this year Children’s Institute will be conducting a randomized controlled trial of Primary Project examining the effectiveness of this long-standing school-based intervention.

In spring of last school year, we invited schools to join us in one of four informational meetings about the research study. We are thrilled to partner with 5 districts/11 schools in the coming school year for these research efforts. We anticipate enrolling over 250 students during Year 1 of this study.

If you have questions about the research study or if your district/school would like to participate, contact:

Marji Allan (
Shelley Sanyshyn (
Lynn Smith (

Virtual Certification Process in Spring 2021

National Certification is a process that examines Primary Project practices and assesses how programs deliver the intervention with attention to program fidelity and best practices. Last spring, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Primary Project team at Children’s Institute developed a modified National Certification process to thoroughly examine programming without being onsite. Our team developed this pilot with the intention of maintaining certification rigors while assuring flexibility.

Thirteen (13) schools volunteered to be part of this pilot, which required three virtual visits with the mental health professional, child associate, and principal. Additionally, electronic surveys were distributed to teachers, principals, and parents, replacing traditional face-to-face interviews. Before beginning the Zoom visits, schools submitted documents for review to a secure electronic folder. The documents served to demonstrate the school’s adherence to the Primary Project Best Practice Rubric indicators. The virtual meetings allowed for opportunities to hear more about program strengths, challenges, general implementation practices, and gave the endorser time to ask additional questions. At the conclusion of the certification process, a feedback survey was sent to those that participated in this pilot. 24 school staff people responded.

This survey resulted in the following feedback: Respondents agreed or strongly agreed that:

  • The certification application process was clear
  • They knew what to expect during the Zoom meetings
  • They received valuable feedback during the virtual meetings
  • The meetings went smoothly
  • They understood what next steps would be

Teams were asked to indicate their preference for certification meetings: Virtual, in-person, or hybrid. One person indicated a preference for exclusively in-person meetings; all other responses preferred virtual or hybrid meetings.

The person who preferred in-person visits gave this explanation: In person meetings seem more engaging. This way the evaluator can also see our school and play area in person. I understand the need for virtual, but I always will prefer in person to optimize social interaction.

Reasons given for preferring virtual meetings:

  • It was easier to organize.  
  • Zoom meetings were easier to schedule and broken into smaller amounts of time (this made scheduling much easier and allowed us to avoid impacting student service provision).  
  • I liked how it was Zoom stages instead of a whole day. It gave us time to meet and still do our jobs. Teachers and parents didn't have to take time out of their busy schedules.  
  • Zoom meetings are easier to schedule with all parties. I loved how easy it was to submit all of our information via a folder that was sent to us.  
  • Less time consuming. The parents really enjoyed being able to do the surveys instead of needing to come into the building. 

This coming school year we will continue to offer virtual National Certification visits. Arlene Bobin, Primary Project Certification Coordinator, will be reaching out to mental health professionals in districts and schools due for certification this year with more details in the coming weeks.

Newly Certified Schools in Spring 2021

Autumn Lane Elementary School, Rochester, N.Y.
Barnard Early Childhood Center, New Rochelle, N.Y.
Charter School for Applied Technologies, Buffalo, N.Y.
Chenango Forks Elementary School, Binghamton, N.Y.
Dansville Primary School, Dansville, N.Y.
Jefferson Elementary School, New Rochelle, N.Y.
Liberty Elementary School, Valley Cottage, N.Y.
Penn Yan Elementary School, Penn Yan, N.Y.
Roberto Clemente School No. 8, Rochester, N.Y.
The Children’s School of Rochester No. 15, Rochester, N.Y.
Trinity Elementary School, New Rochelle, N.Y.
Valley Cottage Elementary School, Valley Cottage, N.Y.
Virgil I. Grissom School No. 7, Rochester, N.Y.


New Primary Project Brochure Available

The Primary Project program brochure is a full-color/printed piece. Your program staff will find it to be a valuable handout for parents and other audiences at open houses, kindergarten screenings, etc.


Spanish version also available

Visit our online store to order