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Spiders Build Giant Web in Texas Park



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Grades 2-up

News Content

Scientists were surprised to learn that thousands of spiders worked together to build a humongous web in Texas.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, share this photo with students. (If you do not have the ability to project the image from the Web onto a screen, you might print out several copies and pass them around.) Ask students to identify what they believe the image shows and/or what might have caused it. After the students list is composed, hand out this weeks News for Kids article, which will fully explain the picture.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: arachnid, mosquitoes, compete, identified, superintendent, and normal. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • An _____ is different from an insect because it has eight legs instead of six and two body parts instead of three. (arachnid)
  • The police have _____ a suspect in the bank robbery. (identified)
  • Mr. Schmidt, the hospital _____, made the decision to lay off 15 workers. (superintendent)
  • The temperature had been above _____ for more than a week. (normal)
  • Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will _____ in this weekends golf tournament. (compete)
  • The bumps on Saras arms were caused by bites from _____. (mosquitoes)

    Read the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

  • Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

  • Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

  • Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

  • Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.
  • Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Spiders Build Giant Web in Texas Park.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • Here is another photo of the web at Lake Tawakoni State Park in Wills Point, Texas, 50 miles east of Dallas. This Google map shows the location of the giant spider web. And here is a You Tube video about the giant web.
  • At first, [the web] was so white it looked like fairyland, Donna Garde, the park superintendent, told news sources soon after its discovery. Now it's filled with so many mosquitoes that it's turned a little brown. There are times you can literally hear the screech of millions of mosquitoes caught in those webs.
  • This summer, sheets of the web covered several mature oak trees over a 200-yard stretch of a nature trail. The web is thick enough to block out the sun. It emits a foul odor, perhaps from the dead insects entwined in the silk.
  • The web is not quite as large as it was a few weeks ago, Garde told Education World on September 26, 2007. It has been knocked down by wind and rain, but is being rebuilt, she said. It is roughly 50 percent of what is originally was, but it is still very impressive. We are told that this activity will most likely continue until the first hard freeze hits our area.
  • According to scientists, webs like this are not as unusual as people might think. This web was photographed at Anthony C Beilenson Park in Encino, California, in February 2005. Other large webs have been documented over the years in the states of Florida and Ohio, and in countries such as Canada and Italy.
  • Spider experts have identified members of 13 spider families in the web. The most common are spiders of the Tetragnathidae family, commonly called long-jawed orb weavers. The females actively build webs at night while the males wander around, scientists say.
  • The web is the work of a community of thousands of spiders, though scientists are not certain why so many spiders chose to join forces in this way. Under normal circumstances, long-jawed orb weavers are a pretty solitary and cannibalistic species, Allen Dean, a Texas A&M University entomologist, told news sources. Dean assumes the spiders might be living in harmony this year because theres so much food available. He speculates that the parks spider population exploded due to wet conditions that provided an abundance of small insects upon which the spiders feed.

    Comprehension Check

    Recalling Detail

  • How wide is the giant spider web? (Today, the web is about 100 yards wide; but it was 200 yards wide before heavy rains hit a few weeks ago.)
  • How many spiders have helped to build the web? (Scientists say thousands of spiders have played a role in building the web.)
  • Why does the spider web appear to be brownish in color? (The brownish color comes from the millions of mosquitoes that have been trapped in the web.)
  • How many different types of spiders have been found in the web? (Members of 13 different spider families have been found.)
  • Why do spiders usually build their own webs? (Usually, they are in competition with other spiders for food.)
  • Where else in the world have large spider webs been found in recent years? (in Florida, California, and Ohio)
  • To what other species are spiders closely related? (They are related to other arachnids, such as scorpions and mites.)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Reading aloud. If you teach primary grades, you might read aloud Miss Spiders Tea Party by David Kirk. After reading, talk about the lessons the story teaches.

    Math -- measurement. Before heavy rains hit, the giant spider web was about 200 yards wide. Talk with students about how long 200 yards is. (200 yards = 600 feet) Have students measure the length of their classroom, their school building, or a school bus and compare the size of the web to those things with which they are familiar.

    Science -- spiders vs. insects. Share with students this informative Insects and Spiders PowerPoint presentation, perfect for students from primary grades to high school. (Note that the presentation may take 30 seconds or more to download.) Let students know in advance that there will be a true-false quiz at the end of the presentation. At the end of the presentation, offer the following statements to which students will respond.

  • Both spiders and insects are types of arthropods. (true)
  • All arthropods have an exoskeleton, or hard outer shell. (true)
  • There are more than 30,000 different spiders in the world. (true)
  • All spiders eat insects. (true)
  • Spiders only live in warm, damp places. (false; spiders live in all kinds of places -- hot and cold, wet and dry)
  • Most spiders live for 25 years or more. (false; most spiders live for only one year)
  • All spiders have six legs. (false; all spiders have eight legs)
  • Most spiders have eight eyes. (true)
  • A spiders body has two main parts, while an insects body has three parts. (true)
  • There are more different types of spiders than there are types of insects. (false; there are about 30,000 different type of spiders, but there are millions of insects)


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Measurement
    GRADES Pre-K - 2
    NM-MEA.PK-2.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    NM-MEA.PK-2.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
    GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-MEA.3-5.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    NM-MEA.3-5.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
    GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-MEA.6-8.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    NM-MEA.6-8.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-MEA.9-12.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    NM-MEA.9-12.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2007 Education World