It's been said a picture is worth a thousand words.

Third-graders at Stevenson Elementary School have participated in a program designed to use artwork to demonstrate the value and meaning of four specific words.

The Global Art Exchange is a new initiative sponsored by the Memory Project.

"The project involves an exchange of artwork between American students and their counterparts in other countries," said Stevenson art teacher Laura Bova.

"In our case, our students exchanged drawings with kindergarten-aged students at a refugee camp in Syria and 10- and 11-year-old students from Russia," she said.

Bova coordinated the local project and successfully applied for a grant of $1,173 from the Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff Education Foundation to pay the Memory Project fees for students as well as other initiatives.

"The children were asked to create pictures with images built around the themes of happiness, peace, kindness or friendship," Bova said. "Our students received a picture from one of the children in Syria or Russia, then they made their own drawing to send back."

The drawings were created and exchanged in November, she said. A photograph of each student along with their first name was attached to the drawings they made.

Stevenson students received copies of the pictures they drew, and the artwork they received in exchange has been on display in the hallways and third-grade classrooms since it arrived, Bova said.

Over the last two school years, when she also taught drawing classes at Grandview Heights High School, Bova coordinated a Memory Project program in which high school students created portraits for students in Syria and Puerto Rico based on the photographs of themselves the Syrian and Puerto Rican youngsters submitted.

Since 2004, the nonprofit Memory Project has worked with charities around the world to arrange for high school students to make portraits of children who are experiencing challenges, whether it's living in a refugee camp, battling poverty or losing family members, Bova said.

"The portraits are sent as gifts and as a way to offer support and encouragement," she said.

The project often involves sending portraits to countries that have experienced tension with the U.S. as a gesture of friendship and peace, Bova said.

"I've seen the impact the project had on our high school students, and when the Memory Project started the project last year for elementary age children to exchange drawings they would make for each other, I was excited about the opportunity for our younger students to have that experience," she said.

Empathy is one of the learning attributes Grandview incorporates in its curriculum, and the Global Art Exchange was a personal way third-graders could apply that attribute, Bova said.

The project also allowed third-graders to explore the deeper meaning art can have, Bova said.

"Starting in second grade, we begin to explore the idea that art can be more than just drawing a picture of something," she said. "The students start exploring how art can denote a feeling and how viewing art can make you feel an emotion."

As they were giving -- and receiving -- pictures through the Global Art Exchange project, Bova said, she asked her students to think about what they hoped their recipients would feel when they received their picture and the feelings that were stirred by the artwork they received.

Third-graders Crosby Philipps and Anders Olson each chose peace as the theme of the drawings they sent to youngsters in Syria.

"It felt kind of nice to do something for someone who doesn't have a lot of food or clothing," Crosby said.

To represent peace, Crosby said he chose to draw a dog "because I really like dogs, especially puppies, and I thought the person in Syria would like dogs, too."

The dog in his picture "is just free to walk around," he said. "I wanted (his recipient) to think that they could be free, too."

For his drawing, Anders said he tried to think about a place where he feels at peace: the beach.

In the center of his picture, Anders drew a hand making the peace sign.

"So there's the waves of the ocean, which makes a really peaceful kind of sound," he said. "I have the sun setting over the water and a dolphin swimming in the water, and there's no one else around."

Millie Mattingly liked the drawing she received from a student in Russia.

The picture shows two girls hanging out in a playground.

"When I saw it, it just reminded me of friendship," Millie said. "It gave me a nice feeling. I thought she made a pretty good drawing.

"It's really cool to be able to exchange pictures with someone in another part of the world," she said. "I like the idea of sending them something they can cherish."

Millie said when she takes the drawing she received home with her, she plans to hang it up in her room, or perhaps store it in her family's memory box as her own cherished keepsake.

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