SCOTTISH SECONDARY pupils are caring, concerned and thoughtful, and they shun celebrities in favour of more meaningful role models such as Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King.
That is certainly the impression given by thousands of pupils who committed time and effort to researching their values through a web-based competition Learning for Life: Embracing Core Values. The project aims to help young people reflect on the qualities and values they believe are important in themselves and others.
Over the past year, pupils across Scotland have created posters that map their thoughts on the importance of subjects such as making the most of yourself, your life, friendship and facing adversity.
Altogether, 65 schools were involved and more than 10,000 posters were created in this, the second year of the competition.
Pupils' main concerns included the gap between rich and poor countries, sustainability, global warming and over-population.
Among the inspirational figures they drew upon were Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Florence Nightingale, Walt Disney, athlete Kelly Holmes, tennis star Andy Murray, deaf-blind US author and activist Helen Keller and Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Learning for Life project asks students to reflect on human qualities such as enthusiasm, courage, honesty, generosity, trust and truthfulness.
They then fill in a specially designed poster template, choosing individual qualities they admire and listing their inspirational figures, favourite quotations and stories. They finish with a personal reflection that helps them pull their themes together.
The template is structured around four main themes: personal development; principles for successful living; from obstacles to opportunities; relationships with others.
David Lorimer, project director, says: "The project encourages reflection on core values as well as consideration of positive and inspiring role models.
"It also reflects the words inscribed on the mace of the Scottish Parliament - wisdom, justice, compassion, integrity - as well as the aspirations of A Curriculum for Excellence."
The winning posters are drawn from S1 to S4 year groups in three Scottish regions: central, northern and western.
Charlotte Stenson, the S2 winner for central region, wrote on her poster about the life-changing effect of meeting the African Children's Choir, mostly HIV Aids orphans: "I hope that in my lifetime I seek justice for these stricken children.
"In the meantime, all I can do is learn from them. Their unselfishness and joy, even in the most profound poverty, has made me realise how fortunate I am. I know it is an experience I will never forget.
"Sir or madam, in the time it has taken you to read this poster, up to around 25 children have died as a result of poverty. Think about it."
Melanie Campbell, Charlotte's philosophy and religion principal teacher at George Heriot's School in Edinburgh, says: "It's not going too far to say that our pupils have moved to new levels of maturity and self-awareness through this project.
"For us as educators, these are things that simply cannot be covered in the necessary depth, even within A Curriculum for Excellence, but which - through the Learning for Life project - are made explicit and can make such a tremendous difference."
Mrs Campbell's sentiments are echoed by pupils across Scotland, some of whose reflections on the project appear in the box below.
Learning for Life, produced by the educational charity Scientific and Medical Network, is to be piloted in England next year.
For further information on the project, go to: www.learningforlife.org.uk
"This project has totally changed the way I look at the world. Friends are like the universe in a way: the universe expands as much as it can and so do friendships." Frazer MacDonald, S1, Portlethen Academy, Aberdeenshire "Learning for Life has made me think of all the good qualities in life and I have more respect for people and things than I had before. I now say, 'Live every day as if it was your last.' Thank you LfL - you have made me appreciate life!" Hollie Wilson, S3, St Kentigern's Academy, West Lothian "This project has helped me think about the values and morals that I hold.
Teenage years are difficult, full of outside influences and worries, and few of us ever take the time to analyse our feelings and beliefs." Laura Dickson, S4, Kilsyth Academy, North Lanarkshire