Hands-on Activity: Charlotte's Web
Educational Standards :
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Each student needs:
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
How many of you remember the story of Charlotte's Web? (Read or review with students, as needed.) In what ways did Charlotte use her web? What are some methods of communication we use that are similar to Charlotte as well as other spiders?
What do you know about spiders? What is spider "silk"? (Listen to student ideas.) The bodies of spiders are able to spin "silk" thread that they use to make webs. What are some ways spiders use their webs? For what else might they use their silk? They use their silk for travel, to catch prey, to construct shelter, to cover eggs, to enclose their young, and for flight to safety.
Spider silk is pretty amazing. Have you ever been "caught" in a spider's web? Well a unique characteristic of spider silk is that it is the strongest natural (and human-made) fiber. Spider silk can be stretched 20-25% without breaking and return to its original shape.
Not all spider webs look like Charlotte's. Different types of spiders make different kinds of webs. Here are some examples. (Show students the attached templates for a few web structure types. Add to the discussion any additional information on spiders, webs and communication.)
Today you are going to communicate, as Charlotte did, by creating webs that contain messages. You will come up with a design that you sketch before constructing your own spider web. Can you be as creative as Charlotte?
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Spiders use their silk for travel, to catch prey, to construct a home, to cover eggs, to enclose young, and for flight. Spider silk is the strongest natural and human-made fiber. Spider silk can be stretched 20-25% without breaking and returns to its original shape. Different types of webs include spiral orb, tangle or cobwebs, funnel, sheet, tubular, triangle, dome or tent webs (see recommended resources and Attachment sections for examples and more information).
Ed Nieuwenhuys' excellent website on The Spider: Web and Silk: http://ednieuw.home.xs4all.nl/Spiders/InfoNed/webthread.html
Garden Orb Web Spider; step-by-step pictures and diagrams show the creation of an orb web structure: http://www.oocities.org/brisbane_weavers/Garden_sp.htm
Spider Web, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_web
Spider Silk, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_silk
Do a Google image search for "spider silk" for pictures to show students.
With the Students
PROBLEM - THE CHALLENGE: Communicate without using sounds, and preferably without using pen and paper.
Attachments (Return to Contents)
Investigating Questions (Return to Contents)
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Worksheet: Have students answer the questions on the activity worksheet. Review their answers to gauge their mastery of the subject.
Rubric: Evalalute student performance by using the attached rubric with criteria for web message design and construction as well as worksheet completion.
Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)
Additional Multimedia Support (Return to Contents)
Learn more about the steps of the engineering design process at http://www.teachengineering.org/engrdesignprocess.php
References (Return to Contents)
Nieuwenhuys, Ed. The Spider: Web and Silk. Last updated April 31, 2008. Accessed November 27, 2011.
Kramer, David C. Animals in the Classroom. 1989 Addison Wesley Longman Inc., published by Dales Seymour Publications, a division of Pearson Education Inc. (portions of the activity)
White, E.B. Charlotte's Web. Harper Trophy. April 1999. ISBN:0064400557
Charlotte's Web Theatreworks. Sangamon Auditorium, University of Illinois Springfield.
Copyright© 2004 by Worcester Polytechnic Institute including copyrighted works of other educational institutions; all rights reserved.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University
Last Modified: June 21, 2012