Wednesday, May 4, 2011

So...It's been all about Spiders!!!

So Spiders have been the big thing here the last few weeks, and a lot of learning has been going on around this subject. I thought it might be a nice example of how we use unschooling to learn so far. It's been a few weeks so I hope I remember to include everything I've been taking mental notes of, but if not I guess it will just have to be put into another post!

It all started when Bear found a nice big spider in our garden one late afternoon about a month ago. He has pretty keen eyesight and spotted it hiding behind a bush.

< This is the spider that started it all, it's probably longer than one of my fingers, so pretty large!

Of course he wanted to know exactly what kind of spider it was and as we didn't know Dad took him to try find out on the internet.

So off they went to the computer and started googling.

They soon discovered it was from the family of golden orb spiders and thankfully pretty harmless. Bear however was quite taken with the fact that we could look it up on the internet, and has since spent a lot of time looking up various spiders, crocodiles, snakes and a few other things, and Evie often enjoys looking with him too.

Around that time we also had just joined the library and when we went to collect our cards and choose our very first books he proclaimed he wanted a book about spiders. I browsed the shelves for him and found a wonderful Usborne book called Spiders, as well as another book on Bugs. The spider book in particular was a hit, and it accompanied us on holiday to his grandparent's new home on a farm in the Natal Midlands, where there were all kinds of spiders to be found.

He found an old spider skin hanging from a web, and that night was especially interested in the section which talks about how spiders grow & shed their skins.

He also discovered a nice HUGE flatty (I'm not sure of their "real" name) in our bathroom there and insisted on taking a bath with it there to keep him company! Of course there was far more than just spiders to keep him occupied while we were away, but as we're talking about spiders today I'll just stick to them!

The cherry on the top was a trip we took to Croc City at the beginning of this week, and we all had a great time, I can highly recommend it! Sadly I have no photos as my camera was out on loan to a friend.

We got there nice and early, which was great as being the only people there we got the guide's personal attention and got to handle so many of the animals, baby crocodiles, corn snakes, boa constrictors, bearded dragons and all sorts of other reptiles. Bear was in his element and Evie just wanted a turn too (but she's still a bit too little to be gentle). And of course they had spiders for us to look at, and they had a beautiful Mexican Red Knee Tarantula, just like the one in our book!

Just yesterday we found this cool game online over at the Magic School Bus, where you put different parts together to create various bugs, including a why not send your kids on over to play Monster Bugs, it occupied Bear for over an hour!

So as you can see, that one little subject has kept us busy over the last few weeks,. and as yet it shows no signs of abating. Clearly the info is also sticking because every night at bed time we are told elaborate stories with all sort of little details about the spiders (and snakes).

So - what did we do today?

We played outside on our jungle gym. Which as luck would have it has it's very own spider web. So we spent time playing and climbing and pretending to be a spider, working out how a spider moves. We also tried out some other animals, hopping like a rabbit, slithering on our tummies like a snake, trotting like a horse etc. Mainly just climbing though.

Then I offered up some crafts, either making our own spiders or making spider we were into the webs today we settled on those.

So - what materials did we need?

Paper plates
Wool or string
Pens/pencils/crayons/kokis etc

So - how did we use them?
First we drew some spiders on our paper plates, we used a black marker cause black spiders are cool! And can I also point out that Bear drew a triangle, all by himself!!! Apparently he was drawing a triangle spider (which we read about in our spider book) but then decided to turn it into a fly instead.

Once we were happy with our spiders we cut little snips into the edge of our plate. I showed Bear how to do the first plate, and then he took over and finished the rest all by himself!

Then you need to tape the end of your string or wool to the back of the plate

And finally it's time to wind your string around the plate, using the little slits you cut to anchor it in place. Once you're satisfied with your web, cut off the string and tape the end to the back too.

And voila - cool spider webs!!!

So - what did we learn

Here's a few of the basics that come to mind:
  • Gross Motor Skills - Climbing on our jungle gym net pretending to be a spider, also moving like various other animals, rabbit, frog, snake, horse etc.
  • Fine Motor Skills - Cutting, drawing, threading the wool through the slits in our paper plate
  • Shapes - we drew circles and lines to make the spiders, and then of his own accord Bear drew a triangle and made a fly.
  • Science and Biology - all about spiders, what they look like, how they build webs, what their bodies are made (no bones & blue blood) etc etc etc
  • Numeracy - spiders have 8 legs, we have 2 legs, the cats have 4 legs etc etc etc

So - what about Evie?

Remember that paper & wax crayons on our list of materials? Well that was actually to entertain our little miss while we were busy with scissors and stuff, but she decided it was not for her and promptly ran off.... find other more exciting company, and give it some cuddles!

That's not to say she hasn't been busy practising her artwork though, look what we discovered on our fireplace - thank goodness it was only chalk!

According to Bear, she was also practising her spiders :)


  1. I love this idea, well done Tanja so far your doing a sterling job!!!

  2. Awesome theme. We love Usborne books. The curriculum we use has alot of the usborne books as 'textbooks'.

    I feel a spider project come. I'm personally not keen on them, but our son would LOVE to do something like that. He, he.

    I also love your jungle gym btw. :)