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Beneath the Surface

Are we like salt?

by Oliver Harrison (revised, originally published in 2009)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To challenge us to look beneath the surface.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need three bottles of water: one with pure water, one with salty water and one with sugary water.

    (The salt and sugar dissolve better if the water is warmed, but allow them to cool before using them in the assembly.) Try to make the salty and sugary ones as clear as possible, so that all three bottles look the same. However, they should also have a strong enough taste to be instantly recognizable for what they are!

  • You will also need three (or multiples of three) drinking glasses and a sachet of rehydration salts such as Dioralyte.

  • Note: this assembly involves students tasting the water samples. Please check food allergies and medical details before selecting the students.

  • Optional: nutritional information about salt is available at:

  • Optional: nutritional information about sugar is available at:

  • Optional: information about oral rehydration therapy is available at:


  1. Show the three bottles of water and the drinking glasses.

    Ask for some volunteers to choose one of the bottles of water, pour a small amount into a glass, take a small sip and report on its flavour and properties.

    Hopefully, the students will react to two of the bottles of water, especially the one that contains salt.

  2. Ask the students whether there was any way apart from tasting it that they could have known which bottle contained the pure water.

  3. Point out that there are other situations when you cant tell whats really in the bottle and you might make the wrong assumptions. You should therefore never drink something without knowing what it is.

  4. Ask the students whether they know the role of water, sugar and salt in keeping us healthy or unhealthy.

  5. Ask the students if any of them have ever drunk a liquid that tasted of both salt and sugar.

    Show the sachet of rehydration salts.

    Explain that the sachet contains a powder that consists of sugars and salts.

  6. Explain that water is the most important substance for health in the human body. Go on to talk about the dangers of dehydration, which can be caused by vomiting and diarrhoea. In the 1950s, it was discovered that a mixture of sugar and salt added to water could prevent death in anyone suffering from severe dehydration. The discovery became known as oral rehydration therapy and this amazingly cheap and easy to administer treatment saves the lives of millions of children in different parts of the world every year. An article in the medical journal The Lancet once described this therapy as ‘potentially the most important medical advance [of the twentieth] century’.

  7. A verse in the Bible (Matthew 5.13) tells us something that Jesus said about salt: ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.’

  8. Salt (although not too much) is vital for health. We all know that a little salt goes a long way and makes a big difference. Salt is also a preservative. Jesus was referring to rock salt, which was mined from close to the Dead Sea. This salt could lose its saltiness and was then useless.

  9. What Jesus was saying is that all of us make a big difference in the world. Our presence should be an influence for good in the world. We should all make a difference wherever we go.

  10. Ask the students, ‘Do we tend to look at things on the surface rather than taking the time to look beneath? Do we judge people on what they look like, what they wear or where they live? Just as the volunteers could not tell which water contained salt or sugar by looking at the bottle, so we don’t know what someone is really like until we take the time to look beneath the surface.

Time for reflection

Ask the following questions, pausing to allow time for thought.

- Are we like salt, giving health to our community today?

Pause to allow time for thought.

- How could we bring refreshment to thirsty people around us?

Pause to allow time for thought.

- Are we willing to be ‘salt’ in school today?

Pause to allow time for thought.

- Could we take the time to look beneath the surface of those people whom we would usually prefer to avoid?

Pause to allow time for thought.


‘Light of the world’ by Lauren Daigle, available at: (4.09 minutes long)

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