On the Hunt Part 1: Webs

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Objective

SWBAT explain how the large variety of web types is evidence that there is great diversity in the spider population.

Big Idea

Students put their field journal skills to the test as they document evidence of spiders within their home and school environments.

Warm-up

10 minutes

This information corresponds to check in 2 of the spider biodiversity quest.

One of the reasons for choosing spiders as the focus of this biodiversity study is the large variety of spider species in the world (over 35,000!).  To get students thinking about this variety, and some of the explanations for how this came to be, we will begin this lesson by looking at some of the evidence spiders leave for us to see: their webs.

I explain to students that spiders' webs provide clues that allow us to make some predictions about how spiders live and some of their characteristics.  Using the Spider Webs PowerPoint, I have students look at the different types of webs and tell me what they think the characteristics of the spider are based on that web (type of prey, daytime or nocturnal, eyesight, size, etc.)  The goal is to get students thinking, not accuracy, so I accept any reasonable answers at this point as long as students can justify their thoughts and it makes sense based on the picture.  This activity not only activates student thinking, but also develops their ability to analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena (SP4).

Activity

30 minutes

During this portion of the lesson, students will be exploring the school and their homes (for homework) for evidence of spiders.  Prior to "setting them free" to explore, students need to gain a stronger idea of what exactly they will be looking for during their hunt.  

To help with this, I hand out Types of Webs reading and Type of Web Notes Chart.  Students read the article and record some basic notes that can be used during their exploration both at school and at home. They are critically reading scientific texts to determine the central ideas and/or obtain scientific and/or technical information to describe patterns in and/or evidence about the natural and designed world(s) (SP8). 

When students complete their note taking, they investigate designated areas around the school where they are likely to find spiders and/or webs.  If possible, try to teach this lesson on a Friday to allow the students the weekend to conduct their hunt at home.

Head to a place where you are likely to find spiders and spider webs (for example, in your house, in your backyard, or at school). Make observations over a couple of days.

Some questions to keep in mind as you make your observations are:

  • Do you see any spiders? Where are they (e.g., on the ground, in the trees)?
  • What were the spiders doing? (e.g., jumping, eating, making a web)
  • Do you see any spider webs?
  • Can you identify any characteristics of the web, or even the type of web?
  • Did you see the spider that you think made the web?
  • Was the web empty, or did you find any captured prey in the web (look on the ground below the web)?
  • Can you tell if the web is abandoned or if a spider is still occupying it?
  • If the spider is still there, have you noticed new additions to the web or any broken strands that have been fixed?
  • Are you surprised about where you found spiders or their webs?  Why? 

Record your observations in your field journal, be sure to keep entries detailed and include scientific drawings (labeled, more than 1 angle, neat) and photos that will allow you to refer back to this information when we attempt to identify spider types.  

Provide students with the Spider Observation Student Directions so they have the list of prompts to include in their field journal entries when they are exploring the school and their homes.

Wrap-up

10 minutes

To close this lesson, I ask students to respond to the following question on an index card:

 Based on what you learned during this lesson, how do you explain why there are so many different types of spider webs?  What does this mean about the diversity of spiders?

While I accept any reasonable answers at this point, I am looking for students to demonstrate understanding that the different webs are due to the large diversity of spiders that each have unique characteristics and habits that call for different types of webs.

When students complete and turn in their response, I have them read the Silk and Web Article to gain more information on the complex process of web creation they might need for their final project.