Creepy Crawlies! Spiders! Webs in the dark! Does it give your give you goose-bumps just thinking about it? Add kids and a few lessons about the science of arachnids, and you have a program that gives new perspective on a creature that inspires most to squirm…or scream!
The skinny: We hosted this program days before Halloween. I wanted to give the kids who came a different way of appreciating spiders, because I used to be very afraid of them myself. This program lends itself to a host of fun ideas, but in the end we read a book together that give great information on spiders in a humorous information style, walked through an interactive Prezi presentation, and finally tried our hands at building our own spider’s web while working on some fine-motor skills and problem-solving techniques.
The cost: Pennies. Literally. I would estimate that we paid about $0.05 for each child for the single paper plate and the yarn.
Preparation: There are tons of great ideas online for spider themed activities, but I wanted one that would work for all age groups without being too hard. We settled on weaving a web from a paper plate. We cut out the plate’s center and punched 12 holes around the diameter. We then cut white year into 3 foot lengths.
I read a lot about spiders before planning out this program, and I will not lie, but the photos of the black widow spider the news reports I read about one being found in Wisconsin did begin to get to me after a while! The University of Minnesota-Extension has some great information, though. I finally pulled all my research together and created a Prezi presentation: Creepy Science: Spiders because the books I wanted to use were checked out and I wanted a visual. I put those books on hold, and the morning of the program they all came in (Yeah!). These are great titles to either read during your program (a great way to insert literacy into STEM!) or to use for your own reference:
I’m trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton (This is the book I read aloud in our program. Great pictures and humor!)
Spiders by Gail Gibbons (Great book with lots of illustrations, facts, and material to begin great conversations about spiders!)
Are you a Spider? by Judy Allen
Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin
Spinning Spiders by Melvin Berger
Here are more great Spider STEM activities!
How it went:
I began by asking the kids who liked spiders. A few brave kids raised their hands, and that opened up a great conversation about why they liked spiders and what type of spider was their favorite. A few kids were brave enough to admit that they did not prefer the company of spiders, and I told them I understood that. But, basically, I told them that if we did not have spiders, our world would be overrun with insects. In fact, a spider can eat 75 pounds of insects in a year! We can have problems with mosquitoes and flies in our area, so I told the kids to think of how life would be if spiders were not part of our ecosystem controlling these insect populations. That won lots of the kids over!
I then read I’m trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton. After reading and commenting on the content, I quickly went through the Prezi presentation, asking the kids to interact as much as they wanted to.
To bring math/geometry into our lesson, we also talked about what different shapes appear in spider’s webs (triangles, squares, rectangles, trapezoids, rhombus, and parallelograms.) I was fascinated with the idea that spider’s webs are stronger than steel, and become stronger when stretched! I am not a scientist, or even a science teacher, but one reason why I love planning Kids’ STEM Labs is that I get to learn new things with the kids!
After stuffing our heads with fun spider facts I asked the kids to put on their engineering hats and try to weave a spider’s web using the paper plate and yarn. Some kids had trouble starting (tying the yarn to the paper plate), so a few parents helped me get the kids started on that part. We then had a few minutes a quiet time while the kids were working. I took out a Halloween picture book, Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler and read it while the kids wove their webs.
I usually try to have my STEM programs be more activite, but this one was fun, even though it was quite! I also lead this for a 5th grade class, and they were so inspired that they created handmade spiders, wove the spider’s into their webs, and decorated their classroom door with their handiwork! Yeah!