Leap Year Day
What does it mean to take a leap forward in our lives?
by Tim and Vicky Scott
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To relate Leap Year Day to moving forward in our lives.
Preparation and materials
- You will need to place a strip of masking tape on the floor. You will also need a tape measure, plus a chocolate bar to give as a prize.
- Arrange with three volunteers that they will take part in a challenge during the assembly, which is to leap forward as far as they can from a standing position behind the tape. The distance they travel will be measured and the one who jumps the furthest will receive a reward.
- You will also need a whiteboard. Write at the top ‘In what areas of life can people take a leap forward?’ Have some pens available during the assembly to record the children's responses to this question.
- Ask the children what is special about 2016 and listen to a range of their answers.
If no one mentions that it is a leap year, ask what is special about February 2016 particularly.
- Ask them how many days there will be this year.
Explain that 2016 is a 'leap year', which means that there will be one extra day at the end of February – 29 February. This means that 2016 has 366 days instead of the usual 365. February, however, still remains the shortest month of the year.
- Ask, 'What is meant by Leap Year Day?'
Hundreds of years ago, Leap Year Day (29 February) was not recognized in English law. The day was ‘leapt over’ and ignored, hence the term.
- Ask, 'Why do we have leap days?'
The exact solar year is actually 365 and a quarter days, so an extra day is added every four years to bring the solar year in line with the calendar year of 365 days.
- Ask the children, 'When was the last leap year?'
The answer is 2012. Leap years occur every four years so you can work out if a year will be a leap year by dividing the year by four.
- Ask the children if this means that years divisible by four are all leap years.
The answer is generally yes, but there are some exceptions in century years. A century year is a year that ends in two zeroes, such as 1800, 1900, 2000 andso on. Such years are not leap years, though, unless they are also evenly divisible by 400. This means that the year 2000 was a leap year and 2400 will also be one, but 1800 and 1900 were not leap years.
Ask if they can work out other years that won’t be leap years either. Correct answers include 2100, 2200 and 2300.
- People born on a Leap Year Day are known as ‘leaplings’! Most celebrate their birthdays on 28 February or 1 March during the ‘in between’ years!
Ask if anyone there is a leapling.
- Highlight that the word 'leap' also means to make a sudden physical movement that is not at the usual or previous pace.
- Invite your volunteers to come up and explain that they are all going to make some leaps. The one who leaps furthest will win a prize.
In turn, have them stand just behind the masking tape line on the floor and, when they are ready, leap forward as far as they can. Measure each leap with the tape measure, then, when they have all finished, announce the winner and give that child the chocolate bar. The volunteers can then all return to their places.
- Mention that this year, many athletes will take physical leaps forward, as they saw the volunteers do, but also leaps forward in their performance if they manage to break world record times for sprints, swims and other events during the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
- Mention that, on this special Leap Year Day, we can think about these and all kinds of other different leaps. We sometimes use the term ‘leap of faith’. When there is a breakthrough in science or engineering, it is sometimes described as a great ‘leap forward’. The new treatments for cancer or the development of the Internet are great ‘leaps forward’.
Turn to the whiteboard and ask the children the question written at the top: ‘In what areas of life can people take a leap forward?’ Write down their answers on the whiteboard. They may include technology, sport, academic performance and so on.
- Ask the children, 'What would be a leap forward for you in this leap year?'
It could be that they think they will take a leap forward in their academic performance or in terms of their behaviour or may be in their thinking about things they would like to achieve in the future.
- Conclude by noting that even small changes and improvements, when added together, can have a big impact. For example, imagine if everyone in the country stopped wasting water by turning off the tap when they brushed their teeth - there could be a leap forward in solving water shortages. In the same way, even small changes in an approach to academic work - becoming more motivated and less distracted, for example - can lead to big improvements.
Time for reflection
In what area of your life would you like to take a leap forward this leap year?
How do you think you would feel if you were to take this leap forward?
What steps can you take to help you make that leap forward by the end of this leap year?
Let's quietly think of a list of actions we can take to make sure we achieve our leap forward this year.
A verse in the Bible says, 'The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him' (Psalm 28.7, NIV).
What causes your heart to ‘leap for joy’?
Thank you for your promise to be with us in the year ahead.
Thank you that you promise to give us strength and help.
In this leap year, help us to take a leap forward with our lives.
May our hearts learn what it means to leap for joy as we make our individual leaps forward.