1 and 2
- To learn about insects.
- To reflect on the interconnections between all living things.
Try acting out the story of Colman with the help of 3 child actors. Children could make masks to use for the cockerel and mouse. You will need a pretend unfinished illuminated manuscript and quill pen for Colman.
At the beginning, assemble two teams - perhaps one of three children, one of three teachers.
Children may need to do a little research of the answers beforehand.
If you are short of time, try choosing one or two of the ideas and developing the others in class. Alternatively, use children's earlier work to illustrate the various ways in which insects are useful and necessary.
The quiz on insects could easily be adapted to form the beginning of a lesson on insect life.
Today's assembly is about insects. Let's see how much you know about them.
Questions for children
- Q. Which insect did the ancient Egyptians worship - and why?
A. The scarab, a species of dung beetle. Ancient Egyptians believed the Sun was rolled through the sky by two divine scarab beetles.
- Q. How many species of beetles are there in the world: about 75? About 250,000? About
20 trillion zillion?
A. About 250,000.
- Q. How many species of beetle live in Britain: about 17? About 4,000? About 700 quillion?
A. About 4,000.
- Q. What do head lice eat: Pizzas? Feathers? Blood?
Questions for teachers
- Q. Which of these creatures is the odd one out: Butterflies? Bees? Spiders? Ants?
A. Spiders, because they are not insects; unlike insects, spiders have 8 legs and belong to the Arachnid family, along with scorpions.
- Q. Which insect does Jesus mention in the Bible (and what does he say?)
A. The moth. "Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy... but story up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:19-20)
- Q. What are the four stages of an insect's life?
A. Egg, larva, pupa and imago.
- Q. How many ants are there in the world: about 1 billion? 1-10 million billion? 40-50
million billion? 3 zillion?
A. 1-10 million billion. In total they would weigh the same as all the human beings in the world.
Here's a question for everyone: Are insects good, or bad? And why?
What's the point of insects?
Many people have phobias about creepy crawlies like spiders. And it is certainly true that mosquitos spread malaria, fleas (on rats) carry bubonic plague, swarms of locusts destroy crops... And so on. But that is simply from humankind's point of view.
Looked at from Planet Earth's point of view, things are very different. If all the humans in the world were killed then most other species would carry on as normal. Very few creatures depend entirely on humans - perhaps 12 species including the body louse and a microscopic follicle mite (Domidex Follicilorum) that lives in the oil glands at the base of our eyelashes and the hairs in your nose (Yes, that includes YOU!).
But if every ant died then it would be a catastrophe - thousands of different species of plant, fungi and animal, including of course the Ant Eater, are dependent on ants.
And even from the human point of view insects are not all bad. Some insects benefit us directly: bees give honey, silk worms give silk. Even if we couldn't harvest these products, insects would still be essential to us. Many different kinds of plant depend on insects (not just bees) for spreading pollen from flower to flower. Without pollination fruit like apples, pears and oranges wouldn't grow. Many insects destroy other insects that damage our plants, e.g. ladybirds eat aphids.
A simple solution?
Often in the past our attitude has been KILL ALL INSECTS. The trouble is that this has caused things to go wrong. In farms where the farmer drenches his crops with insecticide there are very few birds - because birds eat insects. Then apple trees don't bear fruit because there are no bees to pollinate them. The insecticide is washed into ditches and ponds and kills the frogs and newts that live there. That is why some farmers have stopped using man-made insecticides - or any man-made chemicals. This is called 'organic farming'.
The Story of Colman
Somehow, we have to learn to live with other creatures, even if sometimes we don't like the look of them. Here is a story about a saint who learned to live with all sorts of different creatures, including a fly! His name was Colman.
Colman was very holy. He spent every day praying and copying out the Bible (this was in the days before printing presses). Unfortunately he sometimes fell asleep when he was meant to be working, and every morning it was difficult to wake him up [Coleman snores]. So God decided to help him by sending him a pet cockerel to wake him up. [Cock crows - Coleman snores - this happens 3 times, Coleman's snores getting louder each time].
As you can see, this didn't always work. So God sent a little mouse to nip his toes and wake him up [Mouse enters - nips - Coleman wakes up - stretches - 'Oh dear! What time is it? I'd better get to work!' Etc.]. Once he was awake, he said his prayers and began his work copying out the Bible. But - oh dear! - he soon started to snooze. So God sent the mouse into action again [Mouse comes out - nips - Colman wakes - 'Oh deary me' etc. and begins to work again].
Unfortunately, Colman's eyes weren't very good and every time he started copying again he started copying the wrong word ['Oh drat - I'll have to rip it up and start again' - rips it up and throws it in the bin]. This time God helped him by sending Colman a pet fly. It flew through the air and landed on the word he needed to copy [Colman peers at manuscript. There's no need to have anyone act the part of the fly - just buzz. Colman's eyes can follow its circling flight as it homes in on the word. When it 'lands' Colman can thank it and begin copying]. And so, with the help of a cockerel, a mouse... and a fly, Colman got his work done, and lived happily ever after.
So next time you are tempted to squash a fly, think of St Colman, and remember, somehow we have got to learn to live with all creatures, including insects. They have their uses!
'The animals went in two by two'. This can be found in Apuskiddu, Songs for Children (Song 38) and many other sources. Note that all animals are included in the ark.