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The plastic duck armada

To encourage children not to make superficial judgements and to try to treat people equally and with respect.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To encourage children not to make superficial judgements and to try to treat people equally and with respect.

Preparation and materials


  1. Show the children the plastic ducks and ask them which one they would choose for their bath. Explain that most people would choose the nice, shiny brand-new duck, but actually the old, bashed about duck might be rather famous and even valuable.
  2. Tell the story of the 30,000 Friendly Floatees washed overboard in 1992, from The Times news report.

    Plot the amazing journey of the ducks on the map of the world. Explain how the ducks have been traced and how this has helped oceanographers with climate research.

    Ask the children if they think your old duck could actually be worth £50, if not £500? Hopefully they will have picked up the fact that the ducks have been bleached white during their voyage, and so yours is therefore unlikely to be a winner.
  3. Explain to the children that this duck story reminds you about something the Bible teaches, not about ducks but about people.

    James, who was an elder in the church at Jerusalem, was writing a letter to some of the churches in other places because of a problem he had heard they were having. Some Christians in these churches were showing favouritism. When people came into their church wearing fine clothes and gold rings (in other words they were wealthy people), the church people couldn't be nicer to them. They almost fell over each other in their haste to be the first to welcome the visitors.

    ‘Oh, good morning. So nice to have you with us. Please come and sit here. This is the best seat, reserved for our special guests. Now, are you sure you are comfortable? Can I get you anything?’

    Sadly, the poor people in shabby clothes did not receive the same treatment. When they were finally noticed, they would be ushered quickly in and either made to stand at the back or, if they were lucky, to squash in on the floor. They would get a few unwelcome stares, and on the whole they would enter and leave without a kind word from anyone.
  4. James reminds his readers that we should treat everyone in the same way. What is important is not how people look on the outside but what is in their hearts. And people who look very ordinary, and maybe even a bit bashed about, like the duck, can have beautiful, kind hearts.

Time for reflection


Think about how often we judge a person by their clothes

instead of thinking about the person inside.



Dear God,

We can be very quick to make judgements about people which so often prove to be wrong.
Teach us to see the real value in people around us.



‘Shalom’ (Come and Praise, 141)

Publication date: October 2007   (Vol.9 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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