A makeshift village crafted from cardboard boxes, string and sheets sprung up at St Patrick's School yesterday as pupils mirrored some of the trials through which beleaguered Solomon Islanders are now struggling.

Deputy principal Steve Wheeler said each of the more than 200 pupils at the school were involved in the Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand event yesterday, building shelters in the playground and netball court or carrying buckets of water around the playing field.

Pupils had also raised more than $800 for Solomon Islanders, Mr Wheeler said, combining gold coin donations from a mufti day held at the school yesterday with funds collected in Caritas donation boxes pupils had made in each classroom over the duration of the term.

Mr Wheeler said the practical lesson had re-enacted only a handful of the hardships facing families living in the Solomon Islands, capping a learning unit based on the disaster-torn South Pacific nation.

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"They're just trying to understand what it's like to live in the Solomon Islands with all the problems and issues they're going through. Just trying to get that empathy."

Mr Wheeler said the pupils, ranging in age from 5 to 11, had brought all the materials for their shelters after viewing photographs and video clips of the aftermath of a string of disasters - floods, earthquakes, tsunami - that have struck the Solomons in past weeks.

Assistant principal John Murray said the unit on the Solomon Islands had begun about six weeks ago before the floods and earthquake struck and the Caritas exercise had been in focus for the pupils over the past fortnight.

He said pupils had been working in small planning groups "to find out what they need" and the fine weather had been a happy accident.

"What they've been finding out is what materials are suitable and what aren't and that their plans keep changing. What we also wanted the kids to find out was being inside the shelters and having their lunch in a confined area, to just get a sample of what people's lives are like in the Solomons, so they can get some empathy with other people around the world."