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Play time with a serious purpose

Is it a plastic stegosaurus? Is it a giant custard apple? No, it's a funky Apodo, with pointed capsules full of motivating activities, Lorn Macintyre reports

Where are the entrepreneurs of the future, the Tom Hunters and the Ann Gloags? Possibly in Angus, at Arbroath High, untying skipping ropes in a classroom experience using the Apodo system, which aims to fuse education and enterprise in an appealing way.

Apodo is a brightly coloured plastic pod with removable projecting capsules that contain different materials to initiate various activities. It was originally intended to be a training resource for businesses but was launched as an educational tool for schools in Angus last June and since then has been bought by several education authorities.

The Apodo initiative derives from the Scottish Executive's strategy Determined to Succeed: Enterprise in Education, to which it has committed more than Pounds 40 million over three years.

Jim Wallace, the Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, has said:

"We need to help all young people become more creative and innovative. We must help them to take calculated risks and to accept failure as something from which they learn.

"Overall, we must help develop an enterprising approach to work and life, so our young people are able to be the best they can, quickly meeting the challenges of becoming effective employees, employers and even entrepreneurs."

When Tracey Stewart, the education development officer for Angus Council, was based in school, she did some work with Tree of Knowledge, the Fife company that produced Apodo. When she read about developing skills such as self-confidence and self-esteem in schools, she thought of the Apodo concept.

"They had developed the Apodo system for the corporate sector and run courses called Fun at Work. We decided we would try to work together to develop something we could use with school pupils," she explains. "We approached the Scottish Executive and were granted innovation funding to develop the Apodo system for enterprise education."

A team comprising teachers, Careers Scotland and Tree of Knowledge staff was created and put together materials for 100 activities that would tie into eight agreed competencies derived from the Determined to Succeed recommendations: developing initiative and responsibility; team working; confidence, esteem and motivation; decision-making; creativity and thinking skills; business awareness; planning and organisation; and communication.

It was aimed at P6 to S2 pupils to give a continuous programme of enterprise education through the transition period, using a familiar resource.

Gordon McLuckie, an enterprise in education adviser for Careers Scotland, based in Arbroath, says: "Our main objective in Careers Scotland is career planning, helping adults as well as children to become adept at communicating with each other. The Apodo system underpins that kind of confidence that we're trying to instil in young people."

At Arbroath High a session with Apodo is in progress, with two pods opened.

One capsule contains Tumbletower, a verbal communication activity using building blocks. The blocks are inscribed with questions, such as "Name three of your favourite things".

Darryl Kelly got a lot out of doing the activity. "There were catchphrases and the questions were fun to answer, even if you didn't get them right," he says.

Another capsule contains skipping ropes, but not for traditional use, as Hannah Dorward in the third year business management class explains. "We did Wristy Ropes this morning. Two partners tie the skipping ropes to their wrists, then have to get out of it."

The activity demonstrates the importance of working together to solve a problem. Hannah and her partner did not manage to get out of the ropes.

They had more luck with a clay activity, which required them to draw a picture with the clay and get other people to guess what it was. Theirs was a snowy scene.

Hannah helped her classmates to win an award from another pod which has five activities. The one Hannah participated in was called "And the Oscar goes to ...". The Apodo manual explains: "In order to grow our confidence and self-belief we need to recognise the multitude of achievements we make every day, week and year."

Business education teacher Kelly Easton hopes Apodo will turn pupils into more rounded students. "We are trying to improve teamworking skills and communication skills, and getting them to think more creatively. These are the skills they need to be more enterprising," she says.

The contents of Apodo pods can be adapted to suit the curriculum and an Apodo has even been used at a parents' meeting.

Mrs Stewart says: "Part of it is about Scotland's future, about our economy and our changing culture. But more than that, it's about giving our young people the skills to develop and be enterprising in whatever they choose to do."

She hopes that the Apodo system will be used in all Angus schools - primary and secondary - by next session.

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