Citizenship Lessons to Teach Children to
Respect Worms and Other Minibeasts.
by Marie Woolf, Assistant Editor & Whitehall Editor, Sunday Times.
Good citizenship is not just a question of respect for one’s fellow humans, it seems.
The Government has decreed that children should be taught not to hurt a fly. New
curriculum guidance says citizenship classes should pay due respect to the wellbeing of
what it calls “mini-beasts,” including bees, ants, beetles and worms.
The classes are part of the ‘animals and us’ section of the Primary School Citizenship
curriculum. It says children can become “active citizens” by learning that “other living
things have needs and they have responsibilities to meet them.”
By the age of seven, pupils should have learnt that “humans have a responsibility to
ensure the well-being of animals, including mini-beasts” and will have been told rules
for “behaviour in areas where animals live,” for example “not stamping on insects.”
The model lessons, which are not compulsory for schools, have been drawn up by the
Department for Schools and Families. Children are also taught that it is against the law
to leave dogs in cars on a hot day or to disturb fledglings in nests.
Rhiannon Pursall, a beetle expert at the Royal Entomological Society, welcomed the
move. “A lot of children do not recognise insects as animals. They stamp on ants and
torture spiders, but they wouldn’t kill a cat or a dog,” she said. “The younger that
children can learn about caring for insects the better. If they can grasp the idea that
insects are just as important as animals, that would be fantastic.”
Andrew Rosindell, the Conservative animal welfare spokesman, said it was also
important that schools had a sense of proportion. “All creatures great and small have
their place in the world and children should be taught to treat them with respect.
Obviously, though, children also learn that swatting a mosquito is not as serious as
inflicting pain on a puppy,” he said. Educationalists agree that teaching youngsters how
to look after pets, is one of the best educational experiences any child can have.
A spokesman for the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, which drew
up the guidelines, said insects were included because it was “important that young
people develop an awareness of the responsibilities that flow from human relationships
with the natural world.” It added: “The loss of individual organisms, however, small,
may have unforeseen consequences which could have serious impact on habitats.”