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Learning from the Animal Kingdom – Teamwork

The second in a five-part series about lessons we can learn from the animal kingdom

by Philippa Rae

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider examples of animals working together for the greater good.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ask if any of the children enjoy watching programmes such as The X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and the Olympics. Point out that we live in a highly competitive world where everyone wants to be a winner. Healthy competition can bring out the best in us. It can make us work hard to develop our talents and achieve goals. However, often in life, it is not important to win as an individual, but rather, to work as a team.

  2. Ask the children if they are part of a team.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Point out that teamwork doesn’t just refer to a sporting activity. Teamwork is important in all areas of life: at school, at home, in the playground, in a dance class and, when you get older, at work.

    By learning to respect and appreciate other people’s special skills and abilities, we stop being selfish and self-centred. Although we should take pride in our own talents, we can be good team members by tolerating and understanding other people. We can learn to appreciate their weaker areas, celebrate their strengths and share recognition. We should remember that no one can become a winner totally alone.

    Show the images of ballerinas, factory workers, medical staff and a sports team.

    Discuss why it is important for these groups of people to work well together.

  3. Explain that animals work together in many different ways and for many different reasons. For example, wolves form packs and show loyalty by protecting each other. Penguins huddle together to stay warm in freezing temperatures. Ask if the children can think of other ways in which animals work together.

  4. Ask if any of the children have ever watched a group of ants carrying items such as leaves or grasses from one place to another. Ants are strong and can lift items that are much heavier than their own weight because they have a high muscle-to-body-size ratio. However, by working together in a coordinated fashion, they can move much bulkier items than a single ant can. In this way, they get things done much faster, and with less personal effort.

    Show the YouTube video ‘How crazy ants carry heavy loads’. It is 1 minute long.

  5. Show the image of geese flying in formation.

    Ask the children what type of bird the image shows and whether they have ever seen this formation in the sky. Explain that, at a certain time of the year, geese migrate to warmer climates. When they do this, they fly in a V formation and flap their wings up and down at the same time. The further down the V formation the goose is placed, the more assistance it gets from the beating wings and airlift of the geese in front. The leader has the most difficult job, being the first to push a way through the air. Therefore, when the leader gets tired, it moves further down the group and another goose takes its place. Rotating the leadership position means that the geese expend less energy and can reach their destination quicker than flying solo. It also means that weaker geese are helped and tired geese can regain their strength.

  6. Ask the children if they know what a meerkat looks like. Ask them to describe one.

    Explain that meerkats are small mammals who live in harsh desert climates. They are social creatures and live together in large underground networks, only coming out during the day. When they are foraging for food, one member will act as a sentry by standing on his hindquarters and sounding the alarm if he spots a predator. In doing so, he keeps his group safe from harm.

    Show the YouTube video ‘One meerkat looks out for danger . . .’. It is 2.29 minutes long.

Time for reflection

Let us reflect on these animals, and remind ourselves of the way in which they work together.

- Ants work together to achieve much larger goals than they could accomplish by themselves.
- Geese take turns in leadership, working together to ensure that everyone gets a break.
- While a group of meerkats looks for food, one of them acts as a sentry, looking out for danger.

Animals often work together for survival purposes. There are times when humans need to do the same thing. In addition, many of us enjoy teamwork that is aimed at helping others without receiving any material benefit in return. This could be fundraising for charities or helping others in some way.

Ask the following questions, giving time for thought after each.

- Do you like working with other people in a team?
- Are you a good team player?
- What can we do that will help us to work better in all the teams in which we are involved?

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the world that you have created, which we share with other people.

Please help us to appreciate and celebrate the gifts of others.
Please help us not to become jealous, but to be grateful for our own gifts and abilities.
Thank you for the people who help us every day.
Please help each of us to play our parts in the community and wider world.

Publication date: February 2017   (Vol.19 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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