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World Animal Day

Feast Day of Francis of Assisi

by Hannah Knight

Suitable for Key Stage 3/4

Aims

To acknowledge and be thankful for how animals can enrich our lives with companionship, love and curiosity. 

Preparation and materials

  • To research this topic, visit the following websites:

 – World Animal Day, for information on what events and so on are organized and ideas for things students can do, at: www.worldanimalday.org.uk/ideas-individuals

– World Wildlife Fund for information about endangered species and what can be done to help them, at: wwf.panda.org

  • You could arrange for different students to read the different sections of the assembly, but this is optional.
  • Have available the videos Attenborough and the blind baby rhino (available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-V160mAiclc) and What a wonderful world Louis Armstrong with David Attenborough BBC One (available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_ZvZQT81OY) and the means to show them during the assembly. They are 3.00 and 2.18 minutes long, respectively.
  • If you don’t show the second video, you could still have available the song ‘What a wonderful world’ by Louis Armstrong and the means to play it at the end of the assembly. Alternatively, you could play ‘He lives in you’ from the film Lion King. Check copyright in either case.

Assembly

  1. World Animal Day takes place every year on 4 October, which is the feast day of Francis of Assisi, who is the patron saint of animals.

    Francis lived in Italy during the late twelfth century. It was while living in a very religious setting that Francis decided to give up his life of luxury and devote all his time to God and his teachings. 

    He is remembered for his extraordinary preaching, generosity to the poor and his genuine love for animals and nature. Every year, in remembrance of Francis of Assisi, animals are led to churches for a special ceremony called the ‘Blessing of the animals’, during which they are blessed by priests and ministers.

  2. World Animal Day was founded in 1931 and has become a day when we think about and pay tribute to all the animals that share the world around us. It is also an opportunity to increase awareness of animal cruelty and endangered species. 

    The ultimate aim of the day is to think of something special that we can do to improve animal welfare. Increased awareness and small acts of kindness all contribute to the overall health and well-being of our animals. This can be done individually or, perhaps, we could start an animal welfare club at school.

  3. Contributing to animal welfare is not only beneficial to the animals but good for us, too. 

    Studies show that pets provide us with many therapeutic health benefits, including reducing stress and loneliness and increasing social interaction and affection. Indeed, caring for an animal is rewarding, bringing fulfilment into our lives along with a sense of purpose.  

    Put your hand up if you have been upset and your pet has made you feel better.

    The number of hands shows us the extent to which animals can brighten our lives, improving our mental health and well-being. Pets can also increase the amount of exercise we take, add structure and routine to our day and help us meet new people. 

    So, when you go home tonight, reflect on how your own or your friends’ pets contribute to our families and give your cats, dogs and other pets some well-earned love and attention.

  4. There are thousands of ways in which we can contribute to helping the animal kingdom, whether it is raising awareness, fundraising or being accountable for our actions. Here are some ideas for things that you could do individually or with your friends and family.

    Within our class/friendship groups, we could:

    – ask our class to nominate a favourite animal charity and organize some fundraising activities, which could be anything from dressing up like animals for a day or a sponsored silence to even a sponsored school performance or event.
    – research endangered species and find out the reasons for their near-extinction and how they could be saved – the future of these animals is in our hands.
    – choose a controversial subject area, such as animal testing, and hold a class debate, putting forward both sides of the argument 
    – clean up for wildlife – rubbish can often lead to injuries for birds, mammals and reptiles, so, when you go out with your friends, try to pick up any rubbish you see in parks, roadsides and forests. 

    Individually, we could: 

    - help our friends and families look after pets, especially if they are poorly.
    – promote animal awareness on social networking sites – as over half of the UK population uses such sites, this could be a great way of sharing thoughts and opinions as well as promoting animal welfare.
    – volunteer at an animal charity – this will open your eyes to the responsibilities we have towards animals.
    – sponsor an endangered animal – for a small amount each month, you could help feed and nurture a vulnerable animal and some even send a free gift as a thank you! 

These videos illustrate the special bond between humans and animals and the variety of animals there are in the world.

 Play videos.

Time for reflection

Prayer
Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures.
On the fifth and sixth days of creation, you called forth fish in the sea,
birds in the air, and animals on the land.
You inspired Francis to call all animals his brothers and sisters.
We ask you to bless this animal.
By the power of your love, enable [him or her] to live according to your plan.
May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! 
Amen.

 

Hymn

‘All creatures of our God and King’ (Come and Praise, 7)

Music

‘What a wonderful world’ by Louis Armstrong
'He lives in you’ from the film Lion King

Publication date: October 2014   (Vol.16 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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