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Journeys: life is full of surprises

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider journeys with unlikely outcomes.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a copy of the book Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish by Michael Foreman (Puffin, 1993). You will need to be familiar with the story and might like to collect a few props to show as you retell it, such as a toy dinosaur, a small pile of rubbish and a star.
  • A useful visual focus might be one or more of the following:

    – a vase of flowers that are in tight bud
    – a shell with a rough exterior and colourful shiny interior
    – a conker in its shell
    – a butterfly or dragonfly mobile
    – a bowl of seeds or a bulb or corm. 
  • The reference to the story in the Bible of the wise men following the star and the birth of Jesus in the ‘Assembly’, Step 3, can be used successfully even when it is not Christmas because it is quite easy for the children to relate to and they may well know it already. The assembly can also be presented effectively, however, without including it.
  • Choose either 'You are in charge of everything, Lord' from Prayers for a Fragile World by Carol Watson (Lion Children’s Books, 1997) or the Irish blessing 'May the road rise up to meet you' from A Child's Book of Blessings, compiled by Sabrina Dearborn (Barefoot Books, 2001) as the prayer in the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly.
  • Choose a section from ‘The Brendan Voyage’ by Shaun Davey and Liam O’Flynn CD (Tara 3006) and have the means available to play it at the end of the assembly. This orchestral suite for uillean pipes, played by Liam O'Flynn, conjures up a reflective atmosphere and has an evocative sleeve design, which you may wish to display an image of while the music is playing.



  1. Ask one or two children to remember a journey to a place they hadn’t been to before. What did they imagine it would be like before they went and were they right? You could talk about a journey from your own life, too.

  2. Introduce the book Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish – a story about a man who set off on a journey and found something very different from what he expected. Tell the story yourself, rather than reading it, as this has far more impact and allows you to engage fully with your audience. Show the objects you’ve collected as you do so.

  3. Pause at the point where the star is mentioned early in the story and refer to the Bible story of the wise men following the star that appeared to show where Jesus was born. What did the wise men expect to find? Where did they expect to see a baby king? Ask the children to remember their ideas for later.

    Discuss with the children what the man in the story of the dinosaur expected to find – a paradise that he could own.

    Ask what the man actually found. Why was he so surprised? Which do the children think was better for him – the paradise he owned or the one he shared?

    Refer back to the surprising elements of Jesus' birth. Would we expect kings to be born in a stable, to poor people, with the news spread by strangers and angels?

  4. Reinforce the idea that, like a journey to a place we have never been to before, unexpected things in our lives can turn out to be very important. We need to be open to the unexpected.

    You might want to challenge older children in the following way.

    – They may be able to give examples of an outcome to an event in their own lives that has been different from what they expected. Did it/has it proved worthwhile? Take care, though, as such a discussion could prompt memories of painful events as well as happy ones, so it may be more appropriate to use it in class circle time later in the day.

    Give younger children a visual symbol of the ideas introduced, using the item you chose in the ‘Preparation and materials’ section, above.

    – Explain that there are many surprises in creation – beautiful things can emerge from quite unattractive beginnings after they have journeyed through the growth process. Show the children the flower buds, shell or conker and see if they can think of more – a dragonfly from an ugly insect, butterfly from a cocoon and so on.


Time for reflection

Show the children the seeds and ask them to imagine they are holding one in the palm of their hand. What do they imagine will grow from the seed?

'You are in charge of everything, Lord' from Prayers for a Fragile World by Carol Watson or the Irish blessing 'May the road rise up to meet you' from A Child's Book of Blessings by Sabrina Dearborn.


Chosen section from ‘The Brendan Voyage’ by Shaun Davey and Liam O’Flynn 

Publication date: June 2014   (Vol.16 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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