The program

pairs trained

child associates

with children in grades K-3.

LEWISTON – A group of students from the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College are working with local elementary school children to help them reach their potential as young learners.

Through the college’s “Healthy Learner’s Project,” known nationally as the Primary Project from the Children’s Institute of Rochester, N.Y., the program pairs trained child associates with children in grades kindergarten through grade three for 12 individual weekly sessions.

Children are selected for inclusion by reviewing screenings done by their teachers at the beginning of the school year. While a variety of children are included in the project, Healthy Learner’s children are often those who are a little shy and may not be getting as much as they could out of the classroom environment.

Mary Anne Peabody, Healthy Learners trainer for the state, describes the learners as “the children teachers wish they had just a few more minutes with every day.”

The sessions consist of child-led play that emphasizes warmth, compassion and active listening on the part of the child associates.

The project has more than 40 years of research demonstrating its success in helping school children reach their full academic potential.

Robert Baskett, a psychologist and faculty member at the college, coordinates the training and supervises undergraduate students who provide the service to local schools as part of a service-learning course at the college.

Most of the participating students are pursuing a degree in social and behavioral sciences.

“With the increasing burdens on both children and teachers, we provide an important release: a place where children can both play and become better equipped to learn,” said Baskett.

Guidance counselors and teachers have remarked upon the growth of many children in the program. Six elementary schools in Auburn, Lewiston and Sumner have 14 college students helping children through imaginative play.

Parents and educators interested in learning more about the program may contact Baskett at 753-6587 or e-mail [email protected]


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