Project laying down the law on how to be model citizens

Ozan Nas and Eliza Mach guard the crime scene
Ozan Nas and Eliza Mach guard the crime scene
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THEY carefully examine every last shred of evidence, taking the utmost care to ensure not a single piece is contaminated.

Behind a police cordon, the tables and chairs that have been toppled over and the graffiti smeared across the window offer a glimpse into the crime that has taken place, and may well prove to be vital pieces of the evidence jigsaw that police officers are desperately trying to piece together.

Jessica Turner tries CPR

Jessica Turner tries CPR

But while they are dressed in police uniforms, even wearing blue forensic gloves, the detectives trawling the scene are in fact just ten years old. And much to their horror, the “crime” has taken place in their classroom.

“Don’t touch, remember you’re police officers – you don’t want to contaminate the evidence,” shouts Kirsten Reid, a primary five teacher at Castleview Primary, as a group of pupils crowd around a green jumper that has been discovered on the classroom floor – another vital piece of evidence in their efforts to solve the crime.

The pupils are joined by a trio of community police officers who are only too happy to let them try on various parts of their uniform – including their hats – to allow them to get into character for their roles.

The crime scene drama was just one of a variety of activities taking place at the Craigmillar school yesterday to mark the culmination of its citizenship project, which has the ultimate aim of making the pupils better citizens.

Isis Ferraz plants a welly

Isis Ferraz plants a welly

“It really hit home for a lot of the kids – someone had vandalised their classroom, thrown their jotters around and written graffiti on the window,” says Pc Lily Laing, a special constable from Craigmillar Police Station, who also came up with the project.

“It’s also to get them to think about the victims of crime.”

Meanwhile, in the school assembly hall, primary six pupils are busy learning first aid from the Scottish Ambulance Service, and putting what they have learned into practice by carrying out CPR on a dummy.

Pc Laing, who is also a park ranger at Holyrood Park, adds: “It’s such a buzz to see the kids doing their best. I came up with the idea as a police officer because there’s so much antisocial disorder and I see the best in kids, and I want to see the best in kids. The project proves that the kids can do good things for the community.”

P1 pupils create bird feeders

P1 pupils create bird feeders

It’s clear to see how fond the children have grown of Pc Laing, with every pupil insisting on giving her a high-five every time she walks past them, something that inevitably brings a smile to her face.

As part of their citizenship work, the children have also been delivering history lessons at Craigmillar Castle to tourists from across the globe.

Donning full period costume, the junior tour guides explain how one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Scotland was a place where Mary, Queen of Scots sought refuge and where the grim plot to kill her lover Lord Darnley was hatched.

Tasked with showing visitors around the late-14th century site, the pupils tell visitors about the gruesome defences that its inhabitants, the Prestons, used to fend off English attackers, including the “murder hole” from where soldiers fired arrows and poured boiling oil.

The primary seven pupils also take their tour to the elderly who are unable to travel to the castle themselves, explaining the history of the castle to residents at Castlegreen Care Home via a virtual PowerPoint tour.

For 11-year-old Leigh Heron, it’s been her favourite part of the Castleview Primary School Good Citizenship Project.

“I enjoyed helping and entertaining the old people because they’re stuck in the house all day,” she explains. “It’s fun being a tour guide.”

Other features of this year’s project include the creation of a mural for Craigmillar Castle, which primary four pupils have spent the last fortnight working on, while primary one pupils have been busy making bird feeders for the local community to collect from Richmond Cafe within Richmond Church.

The pupils have taken their work so seriously that they produced a written “citizenship pledge” yesterday, in which they expressed how they will continue to be a good citizen for their school, family, Craigmillar and Scotland.

Headteacher at the school, Lindsey Watt, comments: “The aim of the project is to encourage Castleview pupils to demonstrate their kindness and caring side to the rest of the community, as well as learning to become good citizens. This is achievable by inviting key partner agencies – the Scottish Ambulance Service, Edinburgh City Council, Lothian and Borders Police and the Historic Scotland Ranger Service – to work with the young people, learning about their role and their responsibilities.

“Some of our children come from quite tough realities so it’s important for them to realise that they can make a difference.

“Our children understand that they represent Craigmillar and they always want to show how proud they are of our school and the Craigmillar community.

“Everybody is involved in the project, from the tiniest little child to the oldest.”

All 240 pupils at the school and nursery have been involved in the project, which started in February last year and will become an annual event. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill attended the school yesterday to show his support for the project, which fits in with the Curriculum for Excellence.

Even the tiniest tots did their bit for the project, with three and four-year-olds in the nursery getting their hands dirty by planting little pink flowers inside old wellington boots, which will be given to local residents for free at Castleview Community Centre.

With the help of the Historic Scotland Ranger Service, the nursery kids planted their Bellis Rose flowers inside wellies, featuring everything from Spiderman to Thomas the Tank, donated by members of the public.

Miss Reid’s primary five pupils were also shown a video about an elderly man in Craigmillar who was too intimidated by youngsters to leave his home.

That struck a chord with primary five pupil Keiran Williamson, ten.

He says: “It was really sad because a man didn’t want to come out of his house because of the bairns because they keep on scaring him.”

Ms Watt adds: “The project is also about encouraging our children to make contact with single, elderly people because sometimes quite a boisterous child can maybe cause a feeling of threat. The feedback from community members and residents has been very positive about our school.

“I definitely think there’s been an improvement in behaviour and an improvement in the courtesy that children show to one another since the project started.”

Back at the crime scene, meanwhile, and it’s not long before the quick-thinking children discover who is responsible for the classroom vandalism – a fellow pupil dressed as a clown.

Inspirational officer

SPECIAL Pc Lily Laing, from Colinton, was presented with an MBE for service to the police and the community last year.

Pc Laing has been with Lothian and Borders Police since 1989 and was recognised for her work with community groups. She has also picked up an Officer of the Year award from the International Association of Women in Policing, which followed her 2009 award from Women in Policing.

She has been based at Craigmillar since 1997, and before that was a member of the Royal Parks Constabulary.

She has run countless projects to help improve life for the community and is particularly proud of those which bring young and old people together to understand one another better.