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S2 serves up the spice

Hard on the heels of the First Minister's drive to make pupils more active and healthy, Linlithgow Academy's home economics department believes it has come up with a few answers.

Two second-year pupils, Mhari Robertson and Ben Ross, certainly got the recipe right when they won first and second place in the recent "Taste of Success Scottish Challenge 2003", run by Sainsbury, the British Nutrition Foundation and DATA (the Design and Technology Association).

Sainsbury's new product development team was so impressed with the seven finalists that four of their products are on sale across the UK.

Valerie Drew, of the school's home economics department, reports that Scottish vegetable burgers and vegetable stir fry with spicy yogurt dressing are proving very popular in Sainsbury's Linlithgow store.

She says the school's approach is miles away from the traditional image of home economics. The S1-S2 health and food technology course is designed "to develop valuable lifeskills which enable pupils to make healthy choices".

This means the development in S1 of practical and organisational skills and knowledge of healthy eating, current dietary advice, nutrition and food safety. This is followed in S2 by the development of skills such as sensory evaluation, product evaluation and knowledge of food labelling.

Pupils can then turn to creative problem-solving in the design of a range of healthy products.

At the end of S2, pupils are given a challenge set in the context of a "real life" design brief. In 2002, this involved working with a local wholesale beef producer to develop a product suitable for teenagers. Pupils worked in teams to research and develop products which were judged by a team of outside experts at a "trade fair" in the assembly hall.

The Taste of Success award scheme provides certification for all pupils who complete a folio of work, with several being entered into the Scottish Challenge.

In what will be music to the ears of the First Minister, who has famously confessed he spent much of his adult life avoiding his greens, Linlithgow pupils were given a brief to design a product to encourage Scottish children to eat more vegetables.

This involved 220 second-year pupils carrying out surveys of likes and dislikes as well as researching nutritional requirements for children and suitable ideas. They had to complete a flowchart for manufacture before making and photographing their product. Software programs were used to carry out costings and nutritional analysis and to create a label complete with colour photograph.

Perhaps with one eye on the Scottish Executive's curriculum review, Valerie Drew commented: "This exercise integrates a wide range of valuable activities and demonstrates the potential of home economics in the curriculum to provide pupils with important lifeskills."

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