Then autumn comes,
and the spider, who has waited
through the glorious summer under a leaf,
comes out and spins her web
to hold up the tired leaves a little longer.
We rejoice to see her."
(Celestino Piatti: the Happy Owls)
As a new school year begins, teachers focus on establishing classroom norms and routines that help to create a thriving learning community, and children eagerly return to school to reconnect with classmates as they anticipate all of the time they will learn and play together.
Working within our Thematic Framework, Spiders are an accessible topic that crosses the boundaries of academic disciplines as we explore connections with art, literature, science, social studies and technology.
We see spiders everywhere in our environment in the fall. As we turn our focus of study to spiders, we begin to notice the variety of spiders and webs while walking around the neighborhood and grow more curious about the spiders' role in the world.
Classes move outdoors to observe spiders in the environment and we also learn that “house” spiders live their entire lives indoors. Children are motivated to record their observations with pictures, labels, and writing. Research posters are created, poetry is written and various art media are used to communicate what children are thinking and learning about spiders. Classrooms become busy places as children practice skills and focus their attention on projects and creations.
Throughout the study of spiders children from preschool through fifth grade gain knowledge about our environment, about spiders and their role in the ecosystem, and about cultures which have shared stories about spiders for thousands of years, including the Navajo story of Spider Women, the West African stories of Anansi the Spider, and the mythology of Ancient Greece with Athena and Arachne .
Reading the many tales of spiders from around the world inspired art making with a variety of media including collage, printmaking, weaving and fabric art.
As we move on from the study of spiders, we are all once again reminded of the interconnectedness of all things on earth. We know there is more to learn. We feel gratitude for spiders and their ability to capture many insects that could be a problem for humans, like house flies and mosquitoes. We have been awed by the ability of spiders to weave such intricate webs and may always wonder, "how do they know how to do that?"