As enterprise education goes to the top of the Executive's agenda, Eleanor Caldwell reports on one thriving project
East Dunbartonshire, like many a corner of Scotland, has many a tale to tell and many a boast to make. Pupils at Merkland School in Kirkintilloch certainly think so.
Merkland is a small school with a roll of 95 primary and secondary students who have difficulties in learning. Last year's six S6 pupils set out to teach people about their area on an interactive postcard - a CD-Rom with video footage, music and animation - and the current S6 pupils are now marketing it as part of their enterprise work.
The pupils' enterprise company, ICUC2 Productions, compiled the CD-Rom postcard in co-operation with Project Ability, the Glasgow-based visual arts company which helps people with disabilities to develop artistic skills. The company acquired a grant of pound;1,000 from East Dunbartonshire Tourism Partnership and Planning as well as funds from Project Ability and British Waterways.
Senior teacher Christine Barron and the pupils had the idea after hearing about video production work in neighbouring St Flannan's Primary and seeing an interactive postcard aimed at the Scottish tourist market.
The Merkland virtual postcard brings the area to life through generous doses of humour interspersed with serious history, from the origins of the Mackintosh coat (named after Charles Macintosh, the 18th century factory owner in Lennoxtown who patented the cloth) to Kirkintilloch's notorious dry years between 1921 and 1968. Video footage of the Forth and Clyde canal is interrupted by animation of a little red puffer chugging along. The Antonine Wall, the West Highland Way and the history of the Campsies are also covered. In town and country scenes, red post boxes and telephone boxes appear as testament to the area's iron foundry history.
The postcard tour is accompanied by a variety of music, commissioned by the ICUC2 team. The Kirkintilloch Band and the Milngavie Pipe Band feature prominently and all the Merkland pupils were included, performing anything from a solo of the "Skye Boat Song" to a whole school version of "Donald, Whaur's yer Troosers?"
The project was designed to be cross-curricular. Experience working with dictaphones for the school newspaper, The Merkland Gazette, helped when it came to recording information. Pupils made regular visits to the Auld Kirk Museum to use the town archives. Even the Provost of Kirkintilloch was enlisted to share his knowledge of local history.
This year's marketing team keep a close eye on new opportunities. They have been to craft fairs at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and, closer to home, at Mugdock Country Park, near Milngavie. Sales there were disappointing, so the team investigated the reasons and put it down largely to the position of their stall.
All the pupils take their roles in the company seriously. "It's been important for the children to be involved in the basic business arrangements like opening and managing a bank account," says Ms Barron.
They have also gained from being involved with the Project Ability team who worked on editing the CD-Rom and the local recording studio which mixed the music.
Pupils presented the CD-Rom to a full meeting of East Dunbartonshire's education committee, which gave them an opportunity to see into the workings of one area of local government.
Headteacher Irene McLure is proud of the enterprise. "They have learned a lot about the towns and villages around them," she says. The pupils have also discovered talents related to CD-Rom production and sales.
Profits are being reinvested in the company. Though next year's enterprise project is not decided, the pupils are considering paying the marketing team in future.
The ICUC East Dunbartonshire CD-Rom is available for pound;4.99 from Merkland School, tel 0141 578 0177