Insects + Spiders Unit: Spider silk strength activity

Spider silk is a really strong substance! 🕸️🕸️🕸️ Before you do this activity, we recommend watching this video to learn just how strong it is. Now let’s have a little fun with our own experiment. This spider web-inspired STEM activity will test your child’s engineering skills while encouraging them to think creatively.

What you need:
What to do:

Start by cutting out the middle of the paper plate, leaving the outer ring. (Note: If you are completing this activity as part of our Level 1: Insects + Spiders Unit, you will already have one paper plate ring with the yarn woven through to make a web. In that case, you will need a second paper plate ring for the other web materials.) Position the plate ring on two stools or chairs so that the hole is hanging between the two surfaces. (See our photo above.)

First, have your child lay pieces of uncooked spaghetti across the plate hole in a web pattern. Then, start putting rocks on top of the spaghetti, counting how many rocks you get on there before the spaghetti breaks.

Next, wrap the plate ring with crepe paper streamers or tissue paper and repeat the experiment. Note if this material was stronger or weaker than the spaghetti.

Finally, wrap the plate ring with yarn (or use your woven yarn web) and repeat the experiment. Note if this material was stronger or weaker than the previous two materials.

Next, ask your child why they think one material was the strongest. Give your child a piece of spaghetti, a few inches of crepe streamer, and a piece of yarn. Ask them to try to break each piece in their hands. Talk about how the strongest material (the yarn) is also the most flexible. Examine it closely to see how it is made up of tiny strands of wool, and ask your child how they think this helps strengthen the yarn. You can also tell your child that engineers examine spiderwebs to learn how to build stronger suspension bridges and other materials. That’s a pretty talented spider! 🕷️

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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