Be Nice to Spiders

Be Nice to Spiders, by Margaret Bloy Graham

“A little boy is moving to a new apartment that doesn’t allow pets.  Not having a place for his pet spider “Helen” to stay, he decides to leave her in a box at the front gate of the zoo.  Inside the box is a note asking that the zookeeper take care of her.   When the zookeeper opens the box, Helen escapes and makes her way into the lions’ cage.  Before the arrival of Helen, the lioness and her cubs were miserable, covered in flies from mane to paws.  Helen, whose favorite meal is flies, sets up her web in the corner of the lions’ cage and begins to feast.  A week later, Helen has eaten all the flies in the lions’ cage and so moves next door to the elephant house.

This weekly migration of spinning, eating and moving on continues and the zoo becomes a peaceful, fly-free place for all.  The harmony is broken when the zookeeper decides the zoo needs to be cleaned up for an upcoming inspection by the mayor.  Despite a protest from one of his assistants that “spider webs are supposed to be sort of useful,” the zookeeper decides that all spider webs must go!  With that, the balance among flies, animals and Helen is broken.

To avoid the cleaners, Helen disappears into a crack in the ceiling of the camel house and remains hidden there for several days.  At first, the zoo looks spotless.  However, with Helen gone, the flies begin to come back after a few days.  Helen spins her web at night in the camel’s cage but does not travel around to other cages for fear of being swept away by the zoo attendants. All the other animals once again begin to look miserable, except for the camel.  The zookeeper and his assistant finally realize the role Helen has played in maintaining harmony within the zoo.  The “ah-hah!” leads the zookeeper to establish a new rule at the zoo:  “Be nice to spiders.””

This story that is read in Early Childhood Classrooms highlights the social conflict that occurs when people view conflicts as short-term rather than long-term. This story teaches the importance of viewing a conflict from a broader perspective, that is, viewing the benefits of a spider in catching flies rather then the unattractiveness of the spider’s web. Ultimately, the point of the story is to be nice to spiders because they provide a value to the system, in this case, the zoo.
This story, used in the early childhood classroom, can provide an introduction to learning about living systems. Living systems is an, “animate arrangement of parts and processes that continually affect each other over time” (Sweeney, 2008). Through learning about the interdependence of the parts of a system, children can begin to understand many issues surrounding environmental sustainability, biodiversity, living cycles, etc. which are all very important social issues.
Sweeney, L. B. (2008). Principles of Living Systems. Taken from [ ]

Systems_gfx.pdf (290 KB)
View this on posterous

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *