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The first picture show

Prompted by the centenary of cinema this year, the Scottish Film Council masterminded an initiative to revitalise media education, with one secondary and six primary schools in Scotland's central belt exploring "the moving image".

To get the project off the ground quickly the schools targeted were those which had already demonstrated media interest. Like all voyages of discovery, the scope and scale of the treasures they unearthed related largely to the nature and degree of expertise with which they embarked.

The Edinburgh participants were off to a flying start with education officer Shiona Wood at their helm. An experienced teacher who has already charted the media waters, she inspired Broughton, Bruntsfield and Prestonpans primary schools to bring the media perspective into the entire gamut of the curriculum - history, geography, language, music, artwork, social responsibility and technical skills.

They chose "genre" as the focus of an exhibition at the Edinburgh Filmhouse last week, which included a collection of shoes, reflecting everything from musicals and comedy to westerns and science fiction. They wrote imaginary letters of a century ago describing the impact of early films and new technology.

They challenged stereotypes in their video, What Is a Bully?, and set up a full production company with job applications and interviews as part of the project. They also tackled issues of safety in their Bike Mission video. And their youngest participants in Primary 1 dealt with notions and preconceptions about goodies and baddies in music and dress and mannerisms.

No less valuable was the work done in the Stirling area, where Strathblane primary headed off in the direction of comedy and horror - with Tam O'Shanter as its focus. The Bankier primary brigade is now thoroughly bogged down in making a documentary about the building of their new school extension.

And Denny High first years stayed in coastal waters, given the obvious difference involved with timetabling and began with film appreciation, considering genres and familiarising themselves with the terminology of film-making, before proceeding to story-board a poem as well as other material in their English syllabus.

Back in the west, Stonedyke primary hit the screen last week at the Glasgow Film Theatre with Bugs Bogey, a feature video that tied into imaginative writing, IT and drama, but showed above all a rudimentary importance of structure, spontaneity and teamwork.

All of the work undertaken in the course of this project came within 5-14 curriculum guideliines. The range and volume of output delivered in a matter of weeks was impressive. Presentations of work completed and in progress were offered at the Edinburgh Filmhouse, the MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling, and the Glasgow Film Theatre.

They ranged from displays of storyboards, photographs of casts and crews, reports on the deliberations and decisions, the difficulties and frustrations along the way to snippets of part-edited interviews as well as the completed videos, raw edges and all bravely bared.

The movie business demands the collaboration of language and artwork, of technology and ideas; it provides a motivating context for curricular requirements.

Conventional teaching methods are challenged. "Pupils are invariably more media literate than us," said one teacher. And their motivation seemed only to be challenged when their teachers got bogged down in aspects of the project, to the detriment of the main theme.

"The children, of course, proved to be the best critics of what works and what doesn't," said another. The media are also about deadlines, which provided a valuable focus for achievement in the situations where they were relevant and applied.

Far and away the biggest resource was imagination. But the practical resources involved were provided by the Scottish Film Council, which secured funding from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. Hands-on support throughout the project came from the regional film theatre education officers in the form of workshops and in-service sessions.

This is a pilot project. Its evolution will all be up for testing when a collaborative record of the various approaches and activities of the project is produced next spring.

Karin Spalter For copies of the report contact Paula Visocchi, media education officer at the Scottish Film Council, tel: 0141 334 4445.

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