First Impressions

One of the most commonly found orb weaver is the yellow garden spider. Other names are writing spiders, black and yellow garden spiders, and corn spider.

How do you feel about bats? Do you find them scary or weird? What about spiders? Do they give you the “creepy crawlies?” People often have misconceptions about wildlife based on inaccurate stereotypes. While bats, spiders, and other “scary” wildlife may not be cute and cuddly, they are important contributors to healthy ecosystems. Scary doesn’t mean bad!

Create three different circles on your classroom floor or outside in the schoolyard. Make the circles big enough for several students to stand in at once. Circles could be made from hula hoops, length of rope etc. Label each circle: one with a smiley face, one with a frown, and one with an unsure face (straight mouth). Show children pictures of different “scary” animals. Ask them how the animal make them feel. Tell them to stand in the circle that represents how that animal makes them feel. Why does it make them feel that way? Have they ever seen this animal in real life?  Go through several animal pictures, discussing each one as you go. Make a chart and record the children’s reactions to the different animals as a class.

As a class pick one or more of the animals to explore further. Read books, take a walk to find them in nature, or even have a County Conservation Board naturalist bring an animal or activity to your class. Find your county naturalist at mycountyparks.com or search this Word Document, Guide to Interpretive Services, compiled by the Iowa Association of Naturalists that includes camps, private nature centers, museums, and more! Learn all you can about the animal and how it contributes to a healthy ecosystem. After children have learned more about their animal(s) repeat the circle test again. Have anyone’s feelings changed? Why or why not?

Did your students enjoy exploring “scary” animals? Why not host a “Misunderstood Animals Week” and share your findings with the rest of your school and parents? Children could make posters or think of other ways to share their findings!

For this and other activities, crafts and snack ideas use Growing Up WILD’s ‘First Impressions’ on pages 10-11 of the guide.

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