Spiders are a very common form of wildlife. They are found in a wide variety of habitats as well as inside most buildings, even our homes. In fact, if you did a quick search of where you are sitting right now chances are you could probably find a spider somewhere close by.
There are more than 37,000 species of spiders in the world and about 3,000 species in North America. It is estimated that approximately 550 to 1,000 species of spiders call Iowa their home. Of those spiders only two are possibly harmful to humans, the black widow and the brown recluse, and both are VERY UNCOMMON in Iowa. Most spiders are harmless to humans.
Many people think that spiders are insects but they are actually arachnids. They have eight legs, as opposed to insects having six, and they lack antennae. Spiders have spinneret glands in their abdomens with which they produce silk threads used for creating webs and capturing prey. Different spiders weave different webs. The orb-weaver spiders weave webs that are suspended in mid-air and are what most people think of when they think of a “spider web.” These spider webs are only one of many types of spider webs though and other spiders weave sheet webs, tangle webs, and funnel webs, to mention just a few. Some spiders do not spin webs at all but instead actively hunt for their prey.
Start by asking children: Have you ever seen a spider? How did you know it was a spider? What did it look like? What was it doing? Did it have a web?
After your discussion, take children on a walk to look for spiders and spider webs. Take magnifying glasses if available. Spiders can be found in a variety of places, check trees, playground equipment, tall grasses, and even places within your classroom and school building. When you find a spider ask the children to tell you what they see: How many legs does it have? What shape is its body? What color is it? Does it have a web? What does its web look like? Is there anything on the web? Record how many spiders you find and whether or not they had webs or not. You can even bring along sketchbooks and pencils and have the children draw the spider webs and spiders that they find.
When you return to the classroom encourage children to share their feelings and observations about the spiders you found. Together make a chart about the spiders you found, for example, show the number of spiders, or the number webs etc. Display it in the classroom.
Read a book about spiders together, try Diary of a Spider written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Harry Bliss.
Create an orb web on dark paper using cellophane tape for the “spokes” and double-stick tape for the “spiral.” Show children the tape web. Allow them turns to “tiptoe” their fingers across the web like a spider. What do they notice? Now have them “fly” into the web like an insect would and touch the web with their palm. What happens this time? Spiders don’t stick to their own webs because they “tiptoe” across their webs whereas prey flies into it hitting many sticky strands getting stuck. Discuss different spider webs. Look at pictures of different webs together.
Allow children time to freely play with spider and spider web pictures and toys/replicas of spiders.
Create spider webs using wax paper, yarn scraps, glue, and water. Put glue in a bowl, water it down until you get a soupy consistency. Give each child a piece of wax paper. Using the yarn scraps, dip them in the glue mixture and then place them on the wax paper to create a web pattern. Make sure the pieces of yarn are connected. Allow the webs time to completely dry. Once they have dried, gently peel the webs off of the wax paper, you now have a web that can be hung up. Decorate your classroom windows with the children’s spider webs!