Organism for Teaching Biology
Teaching with spiders.
Activity 1: Observing
Begin Observation #1 by having students observe and record their spider's behavior for 15 minutes. They should make a sketch of the spider. If possible, look at it under the microscope or with a hand lens and label all parts they can identify. Is the spider male or female? See if students can tell; if not, show them what to look for. Look at Golden Guide or How to Know the Spiders books to see if you can find out what kind of spider it is. Have the students keep a record of all prey offered, eaten, and not even.
Observation #2. Again, record the spider's behavior for 15 minutes. Have students write down as many questions about their spiders as possible. Students present their spiders to the class and describe their behavior.
Use their presentations as the basis for a class discussion:
Continue on to the third section of the Observing Spiders Activity: Making Accurate Descriptions. This is a great opportunity for students to work on their observation and communication skills. Students are asked to describe their spiders (in writing) and other students must use these descriptions to identify the spiders. Have the students clarify their descriptions as needed. If you like, classification and grouping could be introduced or expanded on here.
Activity 2: Student Designed Experiments
Students should make a hypothesis and design a procedure to answer either one of the questions raised during class or their own question. Some topics students might want to investigate include: prey choice, cannibalism, eating other spiders--who wins, courtship, agnostic interactions, response to ants, flower choice in crab spiders, nest site choice, can web spiders find their retreats when you rotate their web? or something else the student chooses. Refer back to the students' questions which were written down on butcher paper.
Have students write up their plan. Remind your students to include all of the following sections in their plan: hypothesis, materials, procedure, identify the control if appropriate, and indicate what data will be collected. Students will be given four different times over the next two weeks to do their experiments. If they need additional time, they will have to come in after class. A final lab report and presentation to the class is due at the completion of the experiment. Students should continue to record what the spiders are eating.
The University of Arizona
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
General Biology Program for Secondary Teachers