Similar to how Charlotte uses her web to communicate, students create webs for short messages. They learn how spiders create their webs, and about the different types of webs they make. With this knowledge, students design and create their own webs and incorporate messages.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
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- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- C. Things that are found in nature differ from things that are human-made in how they are produced and used. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- D. Tools, materials, and skills are used to make things and carry out tasks. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- E. Information can be acquired and sent through a variety of technological sources, including print and electronic media. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- F. Communication technology is the transfer of messages among people and/or machines over distances through the use of technology. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- G. Letters, characters, icons, and signs are symbols that represent ideas, quantities, elements, and operations. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- Massachusetts: Science
- 2.1 Identify a problem that reflects the need for shelter, storage, or convenience. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- 2.2 Describe different ways in which a problem can be represented, e.g., sketches, diagrams, graphic organizers, and lists. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- 2.3 Identify relevant design features (e.g., size, shape, weight) for building a prototype of a solution to a given problem. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- 2.4 Compare natural systems with mechanical systems that are designed to serve similar purposes, e.g., a bird's wings as compared to an airplane's wings. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- How spider webs are made and what they are used for.
- How to sketch a design before constructing a product prototype.
- Construction and design techniques in their own spider webs.
Each student needs:
- 2 9 x 2-in pieces of foam core board OR 1 9 x 12-in piece of 3/4-in thick extruded foam insulation (available at hardware stores)
- 30 push pins
- 75 ft white string or thread
- 1 piece of black construction paper
- 1 Popsicle stick
- Communication Worksheet
|design:||The ideas and plans to be made into a prototype, as represented by sketches or drawings.|
- Gather materials and make copies of the worksheet and other attachments.
- IF USING FOAM CORE BOARD: Pre-cut two 9 x 12-in pieces of foam board per student. Glue the two pieces of board together and let dry.
- IF USING EXTRUDED FOAM INSULATION: Pre-cut to 9 x 12-in pieces, one piece per student.
- Measure out the string. Technique: Measure and wind the string around a one-foot ruler until the desired length is achieved. Then cut the string and wind it around a Popsicle stick as you take it off of the ruler. (Takes about one minute to measure, cut and wind around a Popsicle stick.)
With the Students
- Introduce spiders, their webs and silk. Discuss the purpose of webs (and silk), how they are created, and basic types. Discuss various forms of communication (a brief look at the history of communication would be appropriate) and the story of Charlotte's Web.
- Have students pick one type of web to build. Have them draw preliminary design sketches for their webs.
- Give students the materials. Have them glue the piece of black construction paper to the foam board (or foam insulation).
- Demonstrate how to create a web (as follows): Push the push pins into the foam board at every point you want change directions. The push pins act as the "skeleton" of the web. Wind string around the push pins to create the web. Technique: To secure the web, pull the push pins up a little bit to expose a tiny bit of the metal post. Wrap the string around the post once and then push the push pin down. You can also wind string around the upper part.
- Have students create their own webs patterned after one type of web structure used by spiders. Show them how they can use the string on the Popsicle stick to easily wrap around the push pins. The string pulls off easily, just like thread off a spool.
- Once students have created their webs, challenge them to create words, just as in Charlotte's Web. Restrict the words to three or four letters in length.
- As a class, share the completed webs and read the words contained within them. Was your method of silent communication successful?
- Communication Worksheet (doc)
- Communication Worksheet (pdf)
- Star Web Design Template (doc)
- Star Web Design Template (pdf)
- Orb Web Design Template (doc)
- Orb Web Design Template (pdf)
- Sheet Web Design Template (doc)
- Sheet Web Design Template (pdf)
- Tangle Web Design Template (doc)
- Tangle Web Design Template (pdf)
- Triangle Web Design Template (doc)
- Triangle Web Design Template (pdf)
- Rubric for Performance Assessment (doc)
- Rubric for Performance Assesment (pdf)
- What is communication?
- What are different ways to communicate?
- How do babies communicate?
- What are ways to communicate without sound?
- What resembles a spider web in our world? (Possible answers: Fishing nets, crochet, bridge trusses.)
- What materials can we use to create our own webs?
- What are the advantages of spider's silk?
- Why do spiders build webs?
- To simplify the activity, introduce the concepts and background information, and demonstrate how to create a web. Then, rather than have students create the web first and then messages, have them create their messages and then a random spider "web-like" design.
- For an easier modification to the activity (but with a less impressive end result), introduce the concepts and background information, demonstrate how to create a web and have students design and create webs following the Procedure instructions. Then have students write their messages on pieces of paper and attach them to their webs.
- For more advanced students, have them first do research on spiders, silk and web types, and share what they learned with the rest of the class before conducting the web messaging activity. Have other students research the history of communication and/or types of verbal and non-verbal communication.
Additional Multimedia Support
Nieuwenhuys, Ed. The Spider: Web and Silk. Last updated April 31, 2008. Accessed November 27, 2011.
Good information, images and diagrams on the topics of web and silk thread, applications of spider silk, types of webs, spider's various uses of silk. http://ednieuw.home.xs4all.nl/Spiders/InfoNed/webthread.html
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.
(image of Charlotte's Web book cover) http://www.uis.edu/sangamonauditorium/classacts/untitled.htm
© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2004 Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University
Last modified: March 2, 2015