With Halloween just around the corner, some of you may be pulling out the spider decorations or designing spider-themed costumes. What a perfect time to do some spider science activities with your children or students. And while you're at it, be sure to stop by the Halloween Hands On Blog Hop links at the bottom of the post for more spooky ideas.
As is often the case, today's post was inspired by the new children's book, Fatima and the Clementine Thieves by Mireille Messier and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard.
At first glance doesn't the type of children's picture book that we'd feature in a science blog post. However, it serves up surprises because spiders play an important positive role in the story. See a full review, and suggestions for accompanying math and art activities at our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.
1. Make a Spider Climber
An opportunity to learn about spider anatomy in an activity that combines art and science to make a spider that climbs a sting.
- Construction paper or tag board
- Yarn or string
- Pencils, crayons, or markers
- Drinking straw (one for every two participants)
- Needle and thread (optional- for adult use)
- Spider photographs and/or spider anatomy diagrams
Show the children photographs or illustrations of spiders like the one above. Tell them to look closely. Ask how many body parts does a spider have. How many legs? Where are the legs attached, to the front section or back?
Note: spiders have eight legs and two body parts. The front section is the cephalothorax (some texts now call it the prosoma). The rear section or abdomen may also be called the opistosoma. The eight legs are attached to the cephalothorax.
Spiders also have two mouthparts, pedipalps, that kids sometimes mistake for legs. See a more detailed diagram in our post about tarantulas and our post about identifying spiders.)
Fold the construction paper lengthwise (hot dog style). Draw half of two body parts and then four legs attached to the appropriate segment.
Cut out the spider and unfold. Decorate as desired. Add eyes and spider markings.
Cut the drinking straw in half. Tape to the spider along the fold line. Cut a piece of sting roughly 15 feet or 5 meters long. Pass the string through the straw towards the front of the spider, loop it and then send it back through the straw. (See photograph below.) Suggestion for adult help: Fold the string in half. Thread a needle and tie the end of the thread to the loop where the yarn folds. Pass the needle through the straw from the back of the spider to the front. Pull the yarn loop through the straw with the needle and thread. Cut the thread.
(Note: You don't need the second piece of drinking straw shown in the photograph.)
Final step: Fasten the loop to a tree branch, door frame or hook on the wall. Pull the spider to the bottom of the string, taking care not to pull it off the end. Then carefully pull the two strands apart (it might be easier for two children to work together to do this.) The spider should "climb up" the yarn or string. Pull the spider back down and repeat.
2. Craft a Spider Web
- Tag board, cardstock, manila folders or light cardboard
- Hole punch
- Yarn or string
- Small spider illustration or clip art (optional)
Cut a square frame out of the tag board, creating a size appropriate for the age of the children you are working with. Make holes in the frame with a hole punch. Now have the child weave a web by placing yarn through the holes.
For young children, this may be a simple lacing exercise. When they are done, leave a tail of yarn and tie or glue on a spider picture.
Have older children draw or photograph a spider web. Watch this cool animation of how a spider makes a classic orb web for inspiration (requires Quicktime). Explain how the spider starts by laying down the anchor and bridge lines, then the radii, and finally the spirals with help from this labelled orb web graphic.
Other spider web science:
- At JDaniel4's Mom Blog, they use dental floss and a clothes hanger to make a spider web for a demonstration of tensile strength.
- Buggy and Buddy have a spider web vibration activity where they string lines between the backs of chairs.
3. Read Spider-Themed Books
Read Fatima and the Clementine Thieves, or one of the many nonfiction and fiction children's books featuring spiders from our growing list at Science Books for Kids.
Disclaimer: Just so you know, the picture book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of the title links, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you, the proceeds of which will help pay for maintaining this website.
Looking for more ideas for Halloween-themed science activities? Check out the Hands On Halloween Blog Hop at the following links:
Fluffy Zombie Slime - Little Bins for Little Hands
Discovering a Pumpkin: STEM Investigation - Share it! Science
Halloween Ghost Balloons - Mama Smiles
Halloween Science: Static Electricity Ghosts - The Homeschool Scientist
Bubbling Pumpkin Experiments - Preschool Powol Packets
Halloween Robot Spider Craft - Inspiration Laboratories
Halloween Rock Painting for Kids using Physics - From Engineer to Stay at Home Mom
Science Experiments with Pumpkin Peeps – JDaniel4’s Mom
Candy Corn Slime- Teach Beside Me
Happy Halloween Stained Glass Window - From Witty Hoots