Bought this, learnt that, tick it off list

20th February 2009 at 00:00
A monthly trip to the shops is having a profound effect on nursery and high school pupils

In a cash and carry in Glasgow, Kieran Lamarra saves the day. A group of four-year-olds from Arnwood Nursery School in Castlemilk are here to do their monthly shop and nobody can find the Sellotape. Luckily Kieran, 16, locates it in a different aisle, and off the young ones set, counting aloud how many they need.

Pencils, crayons, colouring-in books - all are on the list which is part of the Pencil Point project set up by Stuart Munro, Castlemilk Learning Community's employability and enterprise officer. Once a month, pupils from one of the high schools accompany the nursery children to the cash and carry, where they help buy products to sell to their nursery colleagues.

Over the months, they have become more confident in their counting and shopping. "I let them pick the items and, as time goes on, I get them to do more," says John Charles Brand, an S4 pupil at Castlemilk High.

This simple exercise has been a fantastic learning experience for the nursery children. Richard Robinson, Arnwood's headteacher, praises its use of contextual learning. "Because it is real-life, it is more meaningful to them," he says. "When stock-taking, they are counting. At the cash and carry they gain an insight into the world of work; and people's jobs, roles and responsibilities."

Each child holds tightly onto the shopping list which has carefully been prepared. With pictures of the children holding the items required, as well as each item named, and the number required beside it, it is easy to read and provides even further learning opportunities, as they begin to recognise the numbers and make attempts at copying the words.

"We sell the items once a month," says Mr Robinson. "In advance, we identify Pencil Point helpers who are given the responsibility of being in charge. These change every month; they do stocktaking and write a shopping list. There is lots of discussion, plenty of language work as well as decision-making, planning and responsibility. A Curriculum for Excellence promotes a more cross-curricular approach and projects like this lend themselves very well to it."

Parents have been made aware of the project and are asked to support their child by giving them no more than Pounds 1 to spend. An Ikea trolley provides storage at the shop front.

"This year, we have started to use technology with the project", explains Mr Robinson. "Behind the storage unit is a whiteboard where we project images of each item and a picture of the coins needed to pay for it. Usually on the last Friday of the month, two children will be shopkeepers. The others point to the whiteboard and the item they want to buy."

Central to the project is the mentoring by pupils at Castlemilk High and the others involved. "There have always been good links with the secondary schools, but mostly in terms of staff," he says. "We could see there were lots of benefits for the school and the nursery."

This has involved a "fact-finding mission", with the nursery children visiting Castlemilk High where the project began. "Our pupils explained to the children what was involved in Pencil Point and helped make posters advertising it," he says.

John Charles and Kieran are surprised how easy it has been. "It is good doing something worthwhile. I thought it was going to be difficult working with the wee ones, but it hasn't been," says John Charles.

Kieran agrees: "At first it was scary, we didn't know if they would know much about a cash and carry, but I have enjoyed it and it has been exciting and challenging."

THE THINKING BEHIND THE PENCIL POINT PROGRAMME

From an idea which originated as a business venture in the high school, Pencil Point has grown to encompass the whole learning community with an appointed accounts manager in each school (John Charles Brand) and a stock manager (Kieran Lamarra).

"The fifth and sixth-year pupils, a couple of years back, ran a similar project but it fell away when they left," says John Charles (pictured above with Denica). "We thought it would be fun to start again, and good for the CV."

Stuart Munro, employability and enterprise officer for the Castlemilk Learning Community, is based at Castlemilk High. "It has been a real success, and we are ensuring that a variety of ages are involved, in order for the older ones to pass on their knowledge. At the moment, we have first, third and fourth years," he says.

Mr Munro sees the positive effect it is having on those high-school pupils. "It is about confidence building; about becoming responsible citizens; about social responsibility; and teaching them about wealth creation.

With each of the secondary schools in the area involved, as well as the nurseries, a structure has begun to form. Mr Munro explains: "They hold formal meetings - very simple, but it shows them how companies work. They also have an area meeting with the other high schools in the Castle-milk Learning Community to talk about what sells most, what doesn't, and to share thoughts and ideas."

Photograph: Ashley CoombesEpicscotland.

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