Small and Beautiful
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow
by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider that tiny creatures are important in maintaining the biosphere and that big ideas often have small beginnings.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Small and Beautiful) and the means to display them.
- You will also need Jesus’ words about the mustard seed, which are found in Mark 4.31–32.
- Ask the students to raise their hands if they have a pet at home.
Ask the students whether they like animals.
- Show Slides 1-7, which show some of the world’s smallest animals, and give the following information about each.
(You may wish to find out whether any of the students know what animal is being shown before you tell them the information.)
Slide 1 shows the pygmy rabbit, which is the world’s smallest rabbit. Its typical length is 24 to 28 cm.
Slide 2 shows the pygmy marmoset, the world’s smallest monkey. Its body length usually ranges from 12 to 15 cm.
Slide 3 shows one of the world’s smallest fish, Paedocypris progenetica. It is only 1 cm long.
Slide 4 shows the world’s smallest cattle breed. They are called Vechur cattle and have an average height of 87 cm.
Slide 5 shows the world’s smallest seahorse, which is only 1.6 cm long.
Slide 6 shows the world’s smallest turtle, the speckled padloper tortoise. Males measure about 6 to 8 cm.
Slide 7 shows the world’s smallest frog, the Paedophryne amauensis. Its average body size is 7.7 mm.
- Make the statement, ‘Small is beautiful.’
Show Slide 8.
Even something tiny like an ant is perfectly formed and completely in proportion.
Show Slide 9.
A foetus in a mother’s womb can be recognizable as a human being.
- Being small doesn’t have to be something that holds someone back.
Show Slide 10.
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.
- Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed.
Show Slide 11 and read out Mark 4.31–32.
A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds known to humanity. It usually has a diameter of about 1 to 2 millimetres, yet it can grow into a strong shrub, the tallest of all the garden plants. The seed has within it everything that it needs to grow into a strong plant.
All life begins like this, in tiny ways. We all began as a collection of cells and grew into what we are today. Many of us, in fact, are still growing!
Time for reflection
It is important to recognize that even if something is small, it still has much to give. Without tiny insects such as ants, much of nature would not work as it should. Ecosystems and food chains are reliant upon the things at the bottom. Without insects and worms to change the nature of the soil and feed the voles and mice, owls and hawks would soon die out. Everything relies upon those tiny things at the very beginning.
Ideas can often be like the mustard seed. They can start off as tiny flashes of inspiration and grow into world-changing theories and great movements for good in the world. For example, if Sir Isaac Newton hadn’t looked with fresh eyes at the apple falling from the tree, he might never have understood about gravity. Likewise, if we hadn’t understood back in primary school that 1 + 1 = 2, we wouldn’t be able to do the complex maths that we do in lessons today.
Let us be thankful that small ideas can lead to bigger ones, that a small leap in understanding can grow to a great insight and that small is beautiful.
‘When God made the garden of creation’ (Come and Praise, 16)