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Sowing and Reaping

The history of harvest festivals

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To draw parallels between the processes of sowing and reaping and our own activities at school.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Sowing and Reaping) and the means to display them.

  • Have available the YouTube video ‘We plough the fields and scatter (all good gifts)’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 2.55 minutes long and is available at:

  • Optional: if you have a school allotment or garden project, consider bringing in carrots that have been harvested from the project. Alternatively, bring in some shop-bought carrots to show.


  1. Have Slide 1 showing as the children enter the room.

    Show Slide 2.

    Ask the children, ‘If we planted these seeds today, which do you think would grow the quickest?’

    Point out the different sizes of the seeds and pause to allow the children time for thought.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    The correct answer is that the seeds on the right would grow the quickest. The seeds on the left are yew tree seeds. It would take many years for them to develop into a fully grown yew tree

  2. Show Slide 3.

    Explain that this is a picture of a yew tree that is believed to be the oldest tree in the UK. It is estimated to be between 2,000 and 3,000 years old. In fact, it is so old that the trunk has split into different parts, so it looks like several trees rather than just one

  3. Show Slide 2 again.

    The seeds on the right in this picture are carrot seeds, which grow much more quickly.

  4. Show Slide 4.

    After the carrot seeds have been planted, it will only take a few months for them to grow into carrots and be ready to harvest.

    Optional: show the carrots that have been grown in the school garden or bought in a shop.

    Encourage the children to have a go at growing their own

  5. Reiterate to the children that some seeds take a long time to grow, whereas others are very quick to grow and produce a crop.

    At this time of year, lots of people in the UK and elsewhere are celebrating harvest festival. It is when we get the chance to appreciate all the lovely crops and foods that we can pick at this time of year, such as corn, apples, pumpkins and tomatoes.

  6. Show Slide 5.

    In the past, gathering the harvest was hard, physical work and needed to be done quickly, before the cold, wet weather set in. At harvest time, lots of help was needed to gather the crops, and harvest festival was a time to celebrate the food that had been grown on the land. The community came together to gather the crop, and then celebrated bringing it in by holding a generous feast called a harvest supper

  7. In Victorian times, churches in the UK began to hold harvest festival services, where prayers of thanks were offered and hymns celebrating the harvest were sung.

  8. Show Slide 6.

    Usually, churches were decorated with home-grown produce for the harvest festival service

  9. One particular song that became popular at harvest time was called ‘We plough the fields and scatter’. Many people still sing it today and its lyrics remind us that there is a lot of hard work involved in growing the food that we eat. The lyrics also thank God for providing the sun and the rain that are needed to grow the crops.

    Show the YouTube video ‘We plough the fields and scatter (all good gifts)’.

  10. Although we have been thinking about the growing of crops and the harvest, there are other things that grow, too.

    Ask the children to think of some examples.

    Listen to a range of responses

  11. Explain that when we work on something, whether it’s a class project or being kind to someone else, it is a bit like planting a seed. Sometimes, we see the results of our work straightaway. Our teacher might compliment us on our work, or we might see another person smile because of what we did for them. When we see these things, it is a bit like seeing fruit growing on a plant; we can see the fruit or the results of our actions. Like the carrot seeds that grow quickly, we quickly see the results of our actions.

    Sometimes, though, we don’t see the results of our hard work for a long time. Perhaps we may never see them. Like the slow-growing yew tree, it can sometimes seem to take forever for us to see the results of our actions

  12. Show Slide 7.

    This girl is called Greta Thunberg and she is a schoolgirl from Sweden. Greta has been working hard to raise awareness about climate change and how we treat our environment. We could say that she has been planting seeds in people’s minds about the importance of the environment.

    Some of those seeds have produced results already: Greta has been able to see the fruits of her hard work. Many people around the world have listened to her message and some people are now thinking more carefully about how they can care for our world. For example, in the UK, the government has committed to introducing rules that mean there will be fewer single-use plastic items such as drinks straws for sale.

    Show Slide 8.

  13. However, many people say that lots more changes need to be made if we are to take better care of our environment. It may be that it takes a few more years before people decide to change how they treat the environment. In this way, the seeds that Greta has planted through her campaigning may take a long time to produce results.

    It can be hard to keep on hoping when it takes such a long time for our hard work and efforts to produce results. All of us need encouragement that the hard work and care that we give today will produce results. The seeds that we sow today will produce fruit eventually. Sometimes, it is important to stop for a moment so that we can appreciate the progress that we have made so far.

  14. Christians believe that God is always there to help us at any stage in our lives. Therefore, at this harvest time, as well as appreciating the crops that we have to enjoy, let us also stop to appreciate the work and the relationships we have worked hard on this year. We can look back on the results that we have been part of and anticipate the results that will take place in the future.

Time for reflection

Let’s take a moment to be quiet and reflect on the idea of harvest. 

Pause to allow time for thought.

We think about the lovely fruit, vegetables and crops that have been growing this year and are being harvested now, ready for us to enjoy. We are grateful that we have these foods to enjoy.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Let us consider the work and the relationships that we have put effort into this year. We hope for positive results from our actions.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Dear God,
Thank you for the food that you provide for us.
Thank you for the gifts and talents that you have given us.
Thank you for the people you have created us to be.
Please help us to see some positive results from the actions that we have completed this year.
We thank you for the ways in which our lives are producing fruits.
Please help us to celebrate our own positive achievements and those of other people.


‘We plough the fields and scatter’, available at:

‘All things bright and beautiful’ (Come and Praise, 3)

Publication date: October 2019   (Vol.21 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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