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Life is Full of Surprises

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To see life as a journey that is full of surprises along the way.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a copy of the book Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish by Michael Foreman.
  • You may wish to have a visual focus such as a vase of flowers in tight bud, a shell with rough exterior and colourful shiny interior, a conker in its shell, a butterfly or dragonfly mobile, a bowl of seeds, or a bulb.
  • Optional: Reference to the Bible story of the star and the birth of Jesus.


1. Ask one or two children to recall a journey to a place they didn't know. What did they imagine it would be like, and were they correct?
You could talk about a journey that you have taken at some point in your own life.

2. Introduce the story of Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish. This is the story of a man who set off on a journey and found something very different from what he expected. Tell the story if you can, rather than read it, as this has far more impact and allows you to engage fully with your audience.
Pause at the point where the star is mentioned early and refer to the Bible story of the wise men following a star at the birth of Jesus. What did they expect to find? Where did they expect to see a baby king? Ask the children to remember this idea for later.

3. Discuss with the children what the man in the story expected to find - a paradise that he could own.
Ask what the man actually found. Why was he so surprised?
Ask the children what they think was better for him: the paradise he owned or the one he shared?

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

5. Remind the children 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, a conker or a shell and see if they can think of more examples (dragonfly from a bug, butterfly from a cocoon etc.).

6. Challenge older children to think of examples of where the outcome of an event in their own lives has been different from what they expected. (As this discussion could prompt memories of painful events as well as happy ones, it may be more appropriate to use it in a class circle time later in the day.)

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?

Dear God,
Just as this seed will grow into something beautiful, help me to continue to grow into a beautiful person who shows love and care to everything around me.

You could then use the prayer '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 Sarah Dearborn.


Choose a section from 'The Brendan Voyage' by Shaun Davey,

Publication date: January 2016   (Vol.18 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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