Teodore Verchere loves the art of origami. Image Credit: Supplied

Most sixth graders have enough trouble preparing for their exams, taking part in extracurricular activities, making and keeping friends – in other words, growing up.

For French expat based in the UAE Teodore Verchere however the past two years have not only been a lesson in dealing with life but also in art.

The now 12-year-old Dwight School Dubai student with a penchant for origami – the ancient art of paper folding – was tasked with a special project, to create a 600 piece display that would go down the stairwell of the international school chain’s New York branch.

Verchere began to learn origami in first grade when he was seven years old. “I find it [the practice] very calming and relaxing,” he says.

Teodore Verchere with one of his creations. Image Credit: Supplied

He explains the project: “I was interviewing with Chancellor Spahn from Dwight NY and he asked about my hobbies. I said I enjoyed doing origami, and I had just finished making an origami module with 50 dragons in it. Chancellor Spahn asked me if I would be able to make an origami module that would go down the entire stairwell of Dwight NY. It is 27 meters tall. And it would have to be fire-proof. I said I would definitely be able to do it.”

And so began the tough task of collecting paper that would fold but not crease too easily, that could be coated in fire-retardant material to ensure safety. And that would be enough to create all the little bits that would go into the large area. “I started by getting origami paper from different parts of the world, every piece of paper was sprayed with fire retardant before I started folding. Once I had made enough birds, I fire-proofed the string they would hang in, and I threaded the birds on sections of one metre at a time.

The 27-metre tall stairwell is now home to the origami installation. Image Credit: Supplied

“Each bird represents one of the schools of the Dwight group. Sunbirds for Dubai, Ravens for London, Dragons for Shanghai, Cranes for Seoul, Eagles for New York and Doves to symbolize the peace between all 5 schools.”

Eighteen months on, Verchere has managed 600 birds that delicately drape the stairway of the school.

As summer vacations carry on, he’s wondering when his next big project will take flight.