Our From the Archives series, curated by PIO Songs Editor Val Smalkin, is a chance to dive into our rich and varied history of songs! Today’s wonderful pick is by member Patty Zeitlin, and was featured in issue 57, in the fall of 2007.
My worst fear of spiders began when I was six, at a movie in which Tarzan, a superhero, was about to be devoured by a giant black widow. Also scary were the black pipe cleaner spiders that popped out at Halloween, that looked like the real black widows I’d seen lurking in dark garage corners…small, but poisonous. No wonder I developed an irrational fear of spiders! As so many of us did.
Then, during my Early Childhood Education training, I learned about the value of creatures like spiders and how to help children feel less fear and more appreciation for nature. So before I began to teach, I decided to overcome my own fear. I looked at pictures of spiders and observed real ones, accepting my discomfort, meanwhile. Gradually, I began to appreciate the beauty of spiders, their webs, and their role in the web of life. I learned how to safely capture a spider that had slipped into our classroom, how to show it to the children, talk about it, and then release it outdoors.
After creating three other recordings for children, Marcia Berman and I decided to record an album of songs to help reduce the “ick” factor and fears children had about small, familiar creatures like spiders. Right after that, I noticed a spider building a web in my front yard. The song Spin, Spider Spin, was born and it became the title of our fourth album.
Here’s one way to introduce and teach the song:
Depending on the age of the children, I ask a question like, What do spiders eat that we don’t want flying around us or landing on our food? After they answer, I might add, I used to be afraid of spiders, but I’m not anymore! Now here’s a song I wrote about watching a little spider build a web, and you can help me sing it if you want to.
First, I sing just the Spin, Spider Spin part and have them repeat it; then I sing the whole song. Next, I take a ball of gray yarn, and have the children sit in a circle on the floor. I show them how to hold onto a piece of yarn and take turns rolling the ball to another child. After it forms a web (ages 4 and up) they can stand and move slowly in a circle to the music, holding their piece of yarn. That’s one way to help them create their own “web of life” instead of being afraid of the creatures within it.