School presentation with Tarantulas?

Garth Vader

Arachnobaron
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Jun 25, 2016
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436
Hi everyone,

I was asked to speak at a nearby high school about my career. They have all sorts of professionals come in to talk about their experience going to high school and getting started with their career. I am a therapist, so obviously I will talk about that. Although I only do a bit of arachnophobia treatment (I'm busy with lots of other stuff, wish I could do more of it!), it was suggested by one of the teachers that I bring in one of my Ts to show the high schoolers.

My idea is to bring in Ramona, my E sp red. If she's still looking pre-molt (as she is now) then I will bring Nigel, my A anax instead (he just molted!). The presentation will be in March and I will talk to 3 different classes. I have a small Kritter Keeper I can put the T in. I plan to keep them in the enclosure the whole time and not take them out. I will have to drive across the city to get there so it will be a bit of a journey, probably about an hour from where the Ts live to the school, maybe even longer with morning traffic.

Any suggestions on what I should or shouldn't do here? I imagine some of you have done educational presentations with your Ts before. I don't want to stress mine out too much in doing this. Also, I don't really like talking in front of big groups so this is some of my own exposure therapy :)
 

BobBarley

Arachnoprince
Joined
Sep 16, 2015
Messages
1,480
I did it with a 7th grade class once. All I did was bring a few to the classroom early that day then when it was time to present, I used them as presentation aids.

I know @chanda has a lot more experience with that kind of thing, I've only done it once.
 

wicked

Arachnobaron
Old Timer
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Apr 15, 2005
Messages
385
Presentations can be very rewarding.
I did educational presentations at my kids' grade school for ten years. It was a blast. Of course I was mostly dealing with 5-6 year-olds. And teachers. The grown ups were the hard sells. ;)

Helpful tips and visual aids:
A nice clear container, for viewing live spiders/bugs.

If you will be doing any Q&A, you might want to write down the main points you wish to cover, and keep a tight rein on time. It's easy to get led far afield of where you planned on going when discussion breaks out.

Pictures - I have the Arachnoposters, that I believe might still be for sale here on the site. I would start out by asking the kids what color a tarantula was, then show them the poster, and tell them that there were over 800+ species of tarantulas. That's always a mind blower for most people.

Bad B Movies- I have a copy of "The Kingdom of the Spider" (which I have never actually watched). The cover has a bunch of B. smithi covering a town and it's residence in web, fit for feasting. It's a great lead in for discussions about spider myths. Like, "James Bond was never in any actual danger when the villain put a tarantula in his bed. That's all make believe."

Molt Records- I have a few index cards with molts glued to them. Each card is for a particular spider. The date is under each molt, so size and frequency is recorded in a very visual way. moltrecordswl1.jpg

Paper plate size chart- At one point my largest spider was a MM Acanthoscurria geniculata. I used a sharpy to draw a set of circles on the plate, ranging from 1" across, to 10". With some coaxing, I was able to get a picture of the spider sitting over the center circle. It made a great size chart, and fit nicely in the "big as a dinner plate" cliche.

Immortality (in a sense) - Molting and regeneration of lost limbs. I kept a box with molts, so the inside of the spider could be seen. (Some of the very young children did seem to have a problem with this one. To them there were only two choices, dead or alive. The skin without a spider took a little explaining.)

If your main topic focus will be around relieving misplaced fear, I've found starting with a question, like "what do they look like?", works much better than starting with a fact, like, "tarantulas aren't dangerous". Don't start with what we know, start with what they think they know. "Tarantulas are brown, black, or black and orange? Yes, but that's just the tip of the ice berg. Let me show you what's out there."

The sheer diversity of the species is my favorite opening. The average person's first thought would be horror movies spiders, or the brown spider they saw on a camping trip. They aren't prepared for purple spiders, or iridescent spiders, or electric blue spiders.

You'll be speaking to a much older crowd than I am used to, so my advice may be hit and miss for what you need. Hope at least some of it will be of help. Good luck.
 

Garth Vader

Arachnobaron
Arachnosupporter
Joined
Jun 25, 2016
Messages
436
Thanks @wicked for all of this information! This is great! I only have 1 saved molt so far, but I love that idea of saving them to show off someday. I definitely want to be the spider lady who goes to schools and does presentations like this, especially when my daughter is in school.

I love doing exposure therapy, so I think introducing the T is a great way to teach the kids about the principles of exposure work- actually having the experience of being around something and not encountering danger so there can be new learning. I do this with all sorts of fears and avoided stimuli, with most of my therapy clients it is for PTSD and social anxiety, but it sure is more fun and concrete to explain the principles with tarantulas, in my opinion.

I emailed the principal to check to make sure it is okay if I bring a T and she said she's really scared and probably needs her own exposure therapy! My guess is the teens will be more open to it, but we will see. I'll have other topics to discuss as well, because the point of these presentations is to provide the teens with a lot of ideas for careers and what they can do with their lives.

I will let you all know how it goes after I do it! I will keep my T in the enclosure the whole time, but Ramona the E sp red is so darn curious that she should be easy for everyone to see.
 

REEFSPIDER

Arachnobaron
Joined
May 6, 2016
Messages
412
Im not 100% sure because you will be doing it for free but I thought there was some kind of licensing required to exhibit live animals. I would also look into the insurance policy of the school you will be showing your t at because you may need your own policy for exibiting animals.
 

Garth Vader

Arachnobaron
Arachnosupporter
Joined
Jun 25, 2016
Messages
436
Yes I thought this as well which is why I contacted the principal- she said it is fine as long as the T stays in the enclosure.
 

REEFSPIDER

Arachnobaron
Joined
May 6, 2016
Messages
412
I hope to do something similar with my ladies daughter and her class when shes a couple grades higher. At the moment she is only 6 and completely unaware of mommy and my spiders. Lol
 
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