Informal Education with Arachnids

October 1st, 2012 - September 30th, 2014 | PROJECT

This project takes advantage of the charismatic nature of arachnids to engage the public in scientific inquiry, dialogue, and exploration. The project has two specific programs: (1) The development, implementation, and assessment of an informal museum event entitled 'Eight-Legged Encounters' which now has more than 25 associated activity stations. These activities encompass stations relating to (a) classification and systematics (e.g., 'What is an Arthropod', 'Create a Chelicerate', and 'Assemble an Arachnid'), (b) spider-specific stations focused on silk (e.g., 'Build a Burrow', 'Cribellate vs. Ecribellate Silk', 'Weave a Web', and 'Catch a Moth'), and (c) research related stations (e.g., 'Microscope Madness' and 'Community Experiment'). In addition, there is a stand-alone module entitled the 'Path of Predators' that includes an activity booklet and eleven stations that walk participants through the eleven living arachnid orders. Each stations has original artwork backdrops, clay sculptures, trading cards, and collectible stamps (participants place stamps on a phlylogenetic tree depicting the current hypothesis of evolutionary relationships among the eleven orders). Most stations have live animals and prizes are given to participants that complete their stamp booklet. 'Eight-Legged Encounters' has been hosted at the Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall) twice, with record-breaking attendance (>800 people in <4 hours) and once at the Butterfly Pavilion near Denver, CO. It is scheduled to go to the Denver Museum of Science and Nature in the fall of 2014. The second program associated with this project involves (2) the development, implementation, and assessment of an upper level undergraduate/graduate course at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln entitled 'Communicating Science through Outreach' in which University students develop and implement after school science clubs for local middle school students. This three-credit course was developed and taught for the first time in the spring 2013 and then again in the fall 2013. It bridges the gap between educational institutions in Lincoln, NE, by connecting university undergraduates with middle school students, ultimately utilizing university students as a vehicle by which middle school students can be introduced to inquiry-based science programs. The course is run in collaboration with the Lincoln Community Learning Centers (CLCs) (, which serve children, families, and neighborhoods through collaborative partnerships that lead to smart kids, thriving families, and strong neighborhoods. The CLCs use local schools as hubs of service, including after-school programming. In collaboration with the CLCs and school-specific site-coordinators, this course facilitates the development and implementation of after-school science programming, in the form of local middle school after-school science clubs, by University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) students. This course was responsible for after-school programming at five local middle schools in spring 2013 and two in the fall 2013.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Informal Education with Arachnids Year 1
Informal Education with Arachnids Year 2
Poster - Informal Education with Arachnids
Final Project Evaluation: Informal Education with Arachnids
Eight-Legged Encounters—Arachnids, Volunteers, and Art help to Bridge the Gap between Informal and Formal Science Learning

Team Members

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Contributor
Eileen Hebets, Principal Investigator, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1241482
Funding Amount: 150000.00


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | General Public | Middle School Children (11-13) | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Art | music | theater | Education and learning science | General STEM | Life science | Nature of science
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Afterschool Programs | Citizen Science Programs | Higher Education Programs | Informal | Formal Connections | K-12 Programs | Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs