The Magic School Bus Spins a Web

Field Trip Notes
What do you do when a 50-foot praying mantis menaces your town? Run like the wind...unless youre in Ms. Frizzles class and shes taken you on a field trip inside a science fiction film, circa 1950. The movies main character, the power-mad General Araneus, is determined to destroy the mantis, but Phoebe wants to trap it and save it! Shrinking to the size of real spiders, the kids discover how spiders construct a variety of silky snares, making them world-champion trappers. Can the kids save the mantis - and stop Araneus before its too late?
Tap Into a Trapper

Going Hands-On

Time: 30 minutes initially, then 10 minutes a day for observation
Group Size: 4-6

Carlos is afraid of spiders — until he discovers they are would-champion trappers. Your kids observe spiders in their habitats, in spider hotels that you make, or in both.

What You Need
  • Magnifiers (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Dark-colored poster board
  • Simple field guides/books on spiders
  • Copies of TAP INTO A TRAPPER page
For the spider hotel:
  • Clear jar big enough to hold your spider’s web
  • Nylon stocking
  • Rubber band
  • Spider furniture: rocks, soil, twigs
  • Live prey: housefly, garden insect, mealworms
  • Water spray bottle
Ahead of time: Scout for spiders. They are everywhere, especially in summer and early fall when insects abound. Inside, look behind doors and at corners of ceilings and walls. Outside, look on shrubs, grass, weeds, branches.

Talk About It

Ask: Where have you seen spiders or webs? Why do spiders live there? (insects, other prey are around) What would you like to know about spiders?

Ask: If I walked into your room, what could I discover about you from all your things? Would I know as much from just one thing?

What To Do
  1. Make “Spider Field Logs as indicated.
  2. Read Ms. Frizzle’s Spider Rules (Field Log, page 2). The Venoms of black widow and brown recluse spiders are dangerous. But both have easy-to-identify markings. Neither will bite unless disturbed. They are found mostly around manmade structures.
  3. In the field, hold dark-colored poster board behind webs to make them show up. Demonstrate how to use magnifiers.
  4. For fearful kids, pose spider puzzles: What anchors this web? Why is this a good place for a web? Or assign jobs - hold the poster board, make spider hotels, take notes.
  5. After examining webs together, let kids look for other spiders. Challenge them to find spiders that are not in webs. Most of these hide and pounce on prey.
  6. Help students with field log activities. Make spider hotels and catch spiders. Keep them one to a hotel. Release after a few days.

Next Stop
Challenge kids to devise a way to trap houseflies. Suggest they look to spiders for trapping tips. Ask: What kid of traps do spiders make? Where do they put them? Set out the taps, and observe over a period of time. What makes a successful trap?
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