Thursday, August 19, 2010

Our Circle Time Spider

After reading a post over at Teach Preschool about using puppets in a preschool classroom I told recording superstar Deborah Stewart (you can order her album "Simple Songs For Preschool" from her website) that I was going to try to do an entire circle time with puppets. I figured it would be a snap, not to mention a fun change for the kids.

My set up was that Teacher Tom couldn't be at circle time because he had gone swimming in deep water, started blowing bubbles until he blew one big enough to climb inside. The bubble then proceeded to carry him up out of the water and into outer space. Therefore, "Snaily" and "Doggy" would be taking over circle time duties for the day.

Well, right from the start kids were interrupting with shouts of, "That's really you talking, Teacher Tom!" "That's just a puppet!" and "Your hand is inside making it's mouth move!" Snaily managed to lead the group through a few full body, jump up and down style songs, failing spectacularly when required to clap his non-existent hands or point his non-existent toes. Doggy took over from there, but the chorus of, "You're just pretending, Teacher Tom!" and "I see your mouth moving!" didn't die down. Not only that, but I was finding that using puppets to lead a class wasn't as easy as I'd thought. I kept forgetting to "do the voice" or move the mouth or even that there was a puppet on my hand at all. 

I finally abandoned the puppets altogether (yes, I failed this time Deborah, but there will be a second time) and went for the felt board, which I keep stashed close at hand between the wall and a shelf of blocks. I typically lean the felt board against my knees and keep my basket of felt song props on my lap for easy access. I was wearing shorts and as we sang I felt something on my calf. Thinking I'd dropped on of my felt pieces I glanced at the floor, but didn't see it. After a few more seconds of singing, I felt something else graze my leg, but I just kept going thinking I'd collect my spilled materials after the song.

As we came to the final note I quickly searched the floor, but no felt pieces . . . Just then an enormous spider ran from the vicinity of my toes and scampered halfway up the yellow shelf cover behind me.

I said, "A big spider!" And moved my body, stool and felt board so the kids could see. Half the kids crowded around, the other half scooted to the farthest reaches of the rug. We decided to capture it and after some finagling, got it into one of our bug boxes.

We decided it was a "great big spider" and so serenaded it with that song. The spider was, naturally, frantic to escape. I asked the question, "Why do you suppose it wants to get out?"

"Because maybe it wants to get some food."

"Maybe it misses its family."

"Maybe it wants to spin a web."

Those were our main theories, with a few variations. I then asked, "What should we do with it?"

Most were in favor of letting it go outside, several suggesting that we bury it under "dirt" or "dust." Sena wanting to make sure we buried "Deep, deep, deep, in the dirt. And even more deeper."

We wrapped up circle time, and a group of us then took the spider outside to get a closer look and to further discuss our options.

We wondered if it might be hungry. We dropped an Oregon Grape from our garden into the box . . .

. . . but it seemed uninterested.

It was likewise uninterested in potato bugs and worms.

When it came to the discussion about if and where to let it go, I made the observation that we'd found it indoors, so it was probably an indoor spider. None of us were interested in releasing it in the classroom. There was some sentiment for letting it go in the basement, although some of us were still worried it could climb back up the stairs. As Ava said, "It might take a long time, but it could do it."

That's when Hattie began detailing a very elaborate plan for using cardboard, glue and scissors to manufacture a device that would prevent the spider from returning to our level of the building. We were running out of time, so we're going to have to pursue her ideas today if the spider, which I left in the box overnight, with a few drops of water, is still alive.

By the time we got to this point in the conversation, one of our parent-teachers had used her phone to do some quick research, with the top identification theories being, "Brown House Spider," "Wolf Spider," and "Hobo Spider," the later two being quite toxic, even deadly. Not having the spider with me right now as I study the charts, I'm pretty sure we have a Hobo on our hands. 

According to this website:

. . . although the bite of the hobo spider is initially painless, the bite can be serious. After 24 hours, the bite develops into a blister and after 24-36 hours, the blister breaks open, leaving an open, oozing ulceration. Typically when the venom is injected, the victim will experience an immediate redness, which develops around the bite. The most common reported symptom is severe headache. Other symptoms can include nausea, weakness, fatigue, temporary memory loss and vision impairment. In any case, first aid and medical attention should be sought, if bitten, as and when any adverse health effects are observed.

We're coming up on 24 hours since it was on my calf and no symptoms so far.

I think it might be a good practice to start checking the felt board when I pull it out.

(Update: After doing more research and looking more closely at the now deceased spider, I've come to the conclusion that it is probably not a deadly hobo spider, but rather a giant house spider, which is often confused for a hobo by Northwest homeowners. It tends to be larger, harmless to humans, and a predator of the hobo. This is a good kind of spider to have around!)

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shar said...

I love using puppets and they play quite a big part my class. The puppets are almost always very shy when I introduce them - snuggling into my neck (I seldom use a puppet stage) . And almost always the children sense a need to be still and quiet which gives me a bit of time to quickly fill the children in on the puppets character. The children do say "its you" etc but at the same time they want to respond to the puppet and do. My puppets are very gentle and like to be nursed and comforted on the odd occasion by an upset child. It calms them both down.

I hope you spider is still alive tomorrow. I enjoyed hearing about it today and look forward to the next instalment. I enjoy reading your blogs very much. :)

shar said...

Ooops, just to clarify in case of cultural differences. That would be 'nursed' in an on your lap cuddling kind of way, not a breastfed kind of way. Although that would be fine too.

Unknown said...

Ugh!! I would of freaked out if a spider of that caliber had been on my leg. You are so brave! :)

As far as puppets go...I too fail in that arena. I do however have a monkey (the kind with the long arms/legs that velcro) that "talks" in my ear and then I repeat what he says to the class. The kids seem to enjoy that. :)

Kimberly said...

OMG!!!! The spider aspect of your blog has me totally freaked out. I'm really glad no one was bitten. What an adventure!

Tracy said...

I have to agree with Sena... and even more deeper!

PlanningQueen said...

I loved hearing the kids theories on why the spider was there. I always enjoy how quite often my kids will ponder a situation more deeply than I and ask sooooo many questions related to one small incident.

On a different note, I would have not been at all calm if the spider had climbed over me!

Juliet Robertson said...

My puppets tend not to talk. They whisper into my ear and I have to tell the children what they are saying. If the puppet is badly behaved, I do have to put it away to let it have a think about its behaviour before coming back out again.