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From Small Beginnings

Small is beautiful

by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2012)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider that big ideas often have small beginnings.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ask the students to think of an animal that is very small.

    You may wish the students to discuss their ideas in groups and suggest what the smallest animal is.

    Show the images of tiny animals.

  2. Point out that the animals are still recognizable as a rabbit, a monkey, a lemur and so on; it’s just that they are tiny versions.

    Small is beautiful. Something tiny like an ant is perfectly formed and completely in proportion. Even a human foetus in the womb can be recognizable as a human being.

  3. These pictures also show that being small doesn’t necessarily hold someone back. As the saying goes, ‘Great oaks from little acorns grow’.

    Show the image of mustard seeds.

    A mustard seed has within it everything that it needs to grow into a strong plant. In Mark 4.30-32, Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed, saying, ‘The kingdom of God is like . . . a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’

    All life begins like this, in tiny ways. We all began as a collection of cells and grew into what we are today. Some of us, in fact, are still growing!

  4. It is important for us to recognize that even if something is small, it has much to give. Without tiny animals such as ants and other insects, much of nature would not work as it should. Ecosystems and food chains depend on 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 on those tiny things at the very beginning.

  5. Ideas can be like mustard seeds. They can start off as tiny flashes of inspiration and then grow into world-changing theories and great movements for good in the world. For example, if the apple hadn’t fallen on Newton’s head, he might never have understood about gravity. Likewise, if you hadn’t understood some time ago that 1 + 2 = 3, you wouldn’t be able to do the complex maths that you do in lessons today!

Time for reflection

Sometimes, we can feel that we are too small and insignificant to matter. We may feel that our ideas are not as good as other people’s, or that we can’t have a go at something new, make friends or tackle a problem.

Let’s remind ourselves that small ideas can lead to bigger ones, that a small leap in understanding can grow into a great insight and that small is beautiful.

Ask the students to consider whether there is anything holding them back from trying something new, forming new relationships or putting forward their ideas. Encourage them to take small steps and remind them again of the saying, ‘Great oaks from little acorns grow’.


‘I am amazing’ by Philippa Hanna, available at: (4.21 minutes long)

Publication date: April 2022   (Vol.24 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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