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Our Responsibility to the Earth

The starfish story, retold

by Becky May

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To encourage us to take responsibility for looking after the environment.

Preparation and materials

  • Have available a bag of ‘clean’ litter, which will be tipped onto the floor during the assembly.


  1. Explain that you are going to tell the children a well-known story that has been retold many times.

    The Starfish Story

    One evening, a man was walking along a beach when he spotted a young boy down by the shore. The man noticed that the beach was littered with starfish that had been washed up by a storm. The starfish were now stranded, with no hope of returning to the sea. As the man watched the boy, he noticed that the boy was picking up the starfish one at a time and throwing them back into the sea. The man was a bit puzzled. How did the boy think he could help by throwing back one starfish at a time when there were so many starfish in need of saving? It was an impossible task!
    The man walked across the sand to meet the boy. ‘What are you doing?’ the man asked.
    ‘Saving the starfish,’ the boy replied.
    ‘But how can you?’ responded the man. ‘There are so many here to save! What difference can you make?’
    The boy picked up a starfish lying close to his feet and threw it back into the sea. As the starfish splashed into the water, the boy said, ‘Well, I made a difference to that one!’

  2. Ask the children if they understand what the story is trying to teach us.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Explain that the story teaches us that we can all make a difference to the world, no matter how big a problem can seem and no matter how small our actions may appear. Just like the boy in the story, we can change the world a little bit at a time.

  3. Ask the children if any of them have visited a beach recently. Ask them if they saw a lot of starfish scattered all over the beach. Ask them if they noticed anything else lying on the beach.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  4. There probably weren’t lots of starfish on the beaches that the children visited, but it is likely that there was a lot of litter.

    Ask the children if they have ever seen litter on a beach. Ask them what sort of rubbish they have seen lying on the sand or even in the water.

  5. Empty the bag of litter onto the floor.

    Ask the children if they can think of reasons why it isn’t good to have litter on our beaches.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Possible answers could include the following.

    - Litter on the beaches makes them look untidy and less attractive.
    - Litter can carry disease.
    - Litter can get into the water and pollute it.
    - Litter can be eaten by animals and cause harm.
    - Litter can get caught around animals’ bodies, causing damage and hindering their movement.

  6. In the story, the boy helped to protect the starfish by putting them back into the water one at a time. We can all help our planet by doing little things that make a big difference when you put them together.

    If we all took home our litter when we visited the beach, it would make a big difference. If, every time we visited the beach, we all removed one piece of litter that didn’t belong to us, we would quickly make a difference.

  7. Gather up the litter that was dropped on the floor and emphasize again that responsibility for planet Earth begins with us all taking responsibility.

Time for reflection

Christians believe that the world was created by God for human beings to enjoy and take care of. Taking responsibility for planet Earth can seem like a huge job. However, just like the boy in the starfish story, we can all play our part by doing little things that add up to changing the world together.

Ask the children, ‘How can we change the world today?’

Listen to a range of responses.

Ask the children, ‘How can we make a positive difference to the school environment today?’

Listen to a range of responses.

Dear God,
Thank you for the beautiful world that you created.
Help each of us to take responsibility for our planet by making small differences in the world around us.


‘Tidal Wave’ by Doug Horley, available at:

Publication date: August 2018   (Vol.20 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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