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To show an awareness of the importance of our backbones and to explore what we mean when we 'put our backs' into something.

by Jan Edmunds

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To show an awareness of the importance of our backbones and to explore what we mean when we ‘put our back into’ something.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a model or large picture of the human skeleton – this could be created in class beforehand.
  • A rag doll if you have one.
  • Music for the song ‘Dem bones dem bones’.
  • Note: Be sensitive to anyone with spinal injuries or mobility difficulties.


  1. Begin by reminding everyone how lucky we all are to have strong, healthy bodies. Choose a child to come and help you. Ask him/her to walk, bend over, stretch up, etc. Then ask him/her to come and stand by you.

  2. Continue by saying that we can perform all these movements without even having to think about it. This is because we have a backbone made of small bones called vertebrae. Ask the children if anyone can give you another name for the backbone – spine.

    Once the name spine is established compare your helper with the picture or model of the skeleton. Explain that this is what your helper and all of us look like inside our bodies and if we had no spine linking with all our other bones we would not be able to stand or perform any of the movements we have just seen. We would not be able to lift or carry things, bend, run or even play. All of us would be floppy, like a rag doll.

    Demonstrate by asking your helper to try to make your rag doll stand up. (Allow for some hilarity!) Ask your helper to sit down. If you have no rag doll you could demonstrate this lack of backbone yourself!
  3. (Optional) It is widely believed that many thousands of years ago our ancestors walked on all four limbs. As they became more intelligent and performed different tasks they began to walk more upright and their backs became stronger. (Demonstrating an ape-like walk causes some amusement and helps to hold the interest!)
  4. Many people are able to do important jobs because they have strong, healthy backs. You could ask the children to give you some examples: e.g. builders, firefighters, nurses, etc.
  5. It is because of their strong, healthy backs that animals can be so useful to us. Horses, donkeys, elephants, camels, oxen, llamas, etc. are used in various parts of the world for carrying heavy loads. (More discussion could follow.)

  6. If you have the music to ‘Dem bones dem bones’ you could sing each line for the children to repeat:

    ‘The head-bone’s connected to the backbone (repeat twice more)
    hear the word of the Lord.’ (and so on)

    Or play the music as children enter and leave.
  7. Ask if the children have heard the phrase ‘Put your back into it’, or something similar. What does it mean, and how could it apply to you and your work in school?

Time for reflection


What could you ‘Put your back into’? Is there something you could try harder at, making a bigger effort?


Dear God,
We thank you for giving us strong, healthy backs.
We thank you for all those who use their strength to help others.
We thank you for all the animals with strong backs that help to make life easier for us.
Give us the strength to do what is right

today and always.



‘Father, hear the prayer we offer’ (Come and Praise, 48)

Publication date: December 2005   (Vol.7 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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