Project-based learning and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education work hand-in-hand to engage kids through inquiry and solution-based learning. By inviting kids to investigate and respond to projects that encourage critical thinking and cross-disciplinary tools, kids will gain knowledge and skills that they can apply to problems in their everyday world.
Project-Based STEM Education for Kids – Exploring SPIDERS!
Project-based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method that invites kids to gain knowledge and skills, over a period of time, through explorations and responses into subjects that apply to the real world. STEM Education and PBL work together in this lesson to challenge young kids (Pre-K to 2nd grade) to use cross-disciplinary skill sets to inquire, explore, and respond to investigations about SPIDERS!
SPIDER INVESTIGATIONS LESSON PLAN
This lesson plan is designed for Pre-K – 2nd grade students. The investigations are intended for use over a period of days to allow time for in-depth explorations and creative responses.
Background Information for Parents and Teachers: Spiders are not insects. Spiders are Arachnids as they have eight legs where insects have six. Spiders, unlike insects, have only two body parts: a cephalothorax and an abdomen. Spiders have six organs under their abdomen called spinnerets which allow spiders to produce silk during their life cycle. Spiders eat many insects and are beneficial to keeping the ecological balance intact. Most spiders are venomous, but do not cause harm to humans. The black widow and brown recluse spiders are the exceptions.
STEM Skills Presented in this Lesson:
Science: Students will explore a spider webs, the spider life cycle, and investigate why spiders are important to the ecosystem.
Technology: Students will use technology to investigate, explore, and document learning.
Engineering: Students will engineer a spider web and construct a hands-on spider life cycle.
Math: Students will explore geometric shapes and lines, patterns, spatial concepts, and mathematical relationships in the construction of the spider web and life cycle.
ENGINEERING a SPIDER WEB
Introduction for Students:
Spiders have two body parts, eight legs, and organs called spinnerets that allow them to create webs. A spider creates its web one string at a time. The shapes and patterns in the spider’s web are used to trap insects that the spider eats. Open discussion by asking the following questions:
- How would a spider know that an insect is caught in the web? (The threads on a web vibrate as insects are trapped allowing the spider to know there is something to eat).
- What shapes and patterns do you think are in a spider’s web? (Triangles and non-triangles)
- How does a web help the spider survive? (The web allows a spider to cover a larger area to trap insects than a spider could cover without it).
- Why are spiders beneficial? (They eat insects and help maintain a balance in the ecosystem).
Invite the kids to be scientists and mathematicians as they independently construct a spider and a patterned web using geometric shapes and lines (as an example, save and print the photo above).
- White and Black or Brown Wikki Stix
- Mounting Paper (any color)
Have the students come together to share their engineered webs and discuss the words ecosystem and spinnerets. Invite the kids to share what strategy they used when designing their web. Have the kids use black or brown Wikki Stix to design and create a spider with two body parts and eight legs on the response sheet provided here. (download the pdf file Spider Web Response Sheet) Kids can then write, or verbally share, about why a spider web is beneficial for the spider.
Digital Documentation Activity: Invite the kids to look around the school building, neighborhood, and/or community to see if they can locate a spider web. Be sure to take along a digital camera on your search to document your findings!
All living things have a life cycle that repeats. Spiders are not insects as they have eight legs and not six like insects do. Spiders are a member of the arachnid family and further distinguished from insects as arachnids have no antennae or wings. Spiders have spinnerets that allow them to construct webs over the course of the life cycle.
Basic Spider Life Cycle:
- The spider life cycle begins with an egg. The female spider lays the EGGS.
- To keep the eggs safe, the female spider spins silk around the eggs to create a SAFETY SAC.
- Baby spiders are called SPIDERLINGS.
- The baby spiderlings molt (spiders have their skeleton on the outside and shed it as they get bigger) until they grow to be an ADULT SPIDER.
Materials Needed to Engineer the Spider Life Cycle Craft:
- Brown/Black, White, Yellow, and Red Wikki Stix
- Mounting Paper – Note: laminate the mounting paper for durability (clear contact paper will work if laminating supplies are not available).
Directions: Set out all supplies on a table as an invitation for the kids to create and individually construct the spider’s life cycle. The children should divide their paper into four sections by placing one Wikki Stix vertically in the middle of the paper and another Wikki Stix (horizontally) across the middle. Challenge the kids to create 4 spider webs with the Wikki Stix and construct each of the four stages of a spider’s life cycle: EGGS, EGG SAC, SPIDERLING, and ADULT SPIDER (see example in the photo).
As the kids finish their spider life cycle constructions, remind them that a life cycle is a continuous pattern that repeats over and over again.
Digital Documentation of Learning: Have the kids take photographs of each section of the spider’s life cycle as they create. Print photos of each of the four stages and laminate for durability. Use the photos at a center for a spider life cycle sequencing activity or print several copies of each for a matching game. The kids can place the photos face down on a table and turn the cards over one at a time to locate matching “stages” of the spider’s life cycle.
Suggested Books to Accompany this Lesson Plan
- Spiders by Gail Gibbons
- The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
- About Archnids – A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill
- Aaaarrgghh! Spider by Lidia Monks
- Are You a Spider? (Backyard Books) by Judy Allen
- Spider on the Floor (Songs to Read) by Raffi
Investigating Spiders within the context of STEM and PBL provides important learning opportunities for kids! Learning how to inquire, create, explore, and find solutions in the classroom will encourage the development of tools to facilitate finding solutions to problems kids will encounter in their everyday world.
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