London pupils team with child refugees in art project for Evening Standard's Learn To Live campaign

ANNA DAVIS, Naomi Ackerman
"Symbolic": pupils from four schools spell out message at Hornsey School for Girls: Jeremy Selwyn

Children from four London schools in our Learn to Live campaign have collaborated on an art project which they will complete with young refugees around the world.

The schools have been twinned with children in Jordan, Iraq and the Central African Republic who have been affected by war. The first shared project was an art lesson designed by the “world’s best teacher” Andria Zafirakou .

Ms Zafirakou, who won this year’s $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize, set a task requiring the London pupils to spell out the phrase “Learn To Live” using their imaginations and materials found around them. The children in refugee camps will carry out the same task and the results will be combined in a final artwork.

The first project was completed by year nine students from Carshalton Boys Sports College, Hornsey School for Girls and Francis Barber Pupil Referral Unit in Wandsworth, plus year six pupils from Betty Layward Primary in Stoke Newington.

The group of nearly 100 young Londoners decided to use just their bodies as materials.

The art project set by Andria Zafirakou will be completed with children living in refugee camps (Matt Writtle)

Ms Zafirakou said: “The fact that the London children used their bodies is symbolic. It takes away everything and just says ‘we are one’, ‘we are the human race.’

“I may have a good cry looking at the final pictures, I find it a beautiful concept, I love it.” Despite it being their first meeting, the pupils chatted, laughed and managed to arrange themselves into identifiable words by lying on the floor. Briony Blow, year six teacher at Betty Layward, said beginning the artwork “brought a realness to the twinning project”.

One of her pupils, Aviv Rottenberg, 10, said the task was fun “because we got to meet all kinds of people from the different schools”. Rob Williams, CEO of War Child, the charity jointly running the campaign, said: “It will get really interesting when they develop this deep connection with children in the camps.”

Ms Zafirakou said children were collaborating “with no bias at all to create something that will look beautiful. This is the complete opposite of racism and prejudice and what’s going on in the world. Even if they are 1,000 miles away it says we are the same, we are human beings”.

How your school can help