Friday, January 1, 2010

Literature and Science - Literacy Enhancement

In Classic Myths to Read Aloud, "The Spinning Contest" is a story about hubris (ὕβρις) or overbearing pride. It is from a Greek myth about Arachne (Arachne (Arakhne) (Αράχνη)). It takes about 9 minutes to read aloud and can be a good introduction to the overlap between literature and science.

Many times childhood stories prepare us to understand, or share understanding with others who have the same stories in their background. That is, childhood stories, like, "The Spinning Contest," or, for that matter, "The Emperor's New Clothes," give us common bonds for ideas to link in our minds, so we can build knowledge within ourselves and also relate to others.

In teaching, I noticed that students having a hard time in science may have had difficulty because of a lack of childhood experiences like making cookies or sharing stories or visiting museums. These lacks could be compensated to some degree by doing these types of activities later on. I noticed, from my own experience, that any student wanting to learn was able to compensate for any lack in his or her prior life experience. But, some students got a helping hand when classes of different subjects were blended, showing connections between ideas to the students. Thus, I have decided to add this post on, "The Spinning Contest," as an example of ways to help students learn science and build science literacy.

The story begins, as many child hood stories do, "there once..." Here we go with the opening:

There once was an ancient city that lay across the Aegean...Sea from Greece, and in that city dwelt a certain maiden, Arachne... by name. Though her parents had been very poor, Arachne brought wealth and comfort to their little cottage through her great skill in weaving and embroidering. Source: Classic Myths to Read Aloud. Three Rivers Press, New York. 1989. Pp. 64-67.

Now, don't we all love a story. Children do, but, we adults do, too. Find a version of the story of Arachne that you enjoy. Read it. Then reflect...on ...spiders.

Spiders have eight legs and two body parts, the abdomen and the thorax.
Source: Accessed 1-1-2010.

Spiders have silk spinning glands to spin silk for their webs, however,
not all spiders spin webs.
Accessed 1-1-2010.

Spider silk is used in dentistry to form a matrix for dental implants. Source: Dr. Bakheeta Almansouri. Personal communication. 2008-2009, many discussions.

Spiders are frightening to some people (Source: Personal communication with
many people 1968-72)
but do many good things, too. Fear of spiders is
Source: Accessed 1-1-2010.

Spiders belong to the Arachnid family. Source: Accessed 1-1-2010.

There are more than 30,000 species of spiders. Source: http://www. Accessed 1-1-2010.

Spiders are oviparous, which means "egg bearing." Their babies come
from eggs.
Source: Accessed

Most spiders have either six or eight eyes. Source: Accessed 1-1-2010.

All spiders have fangs, through which venom is ejected. Spider bites
can be quite painful, and a few can be fatal.
Source: Accessed 1-1-2010.

Spiders eat many types of harmful insects, and are a friend of gardeners,
keeping the garden pest population down.
Source: Accessed 1-1-2010.
Reading the story on Arachne may help listeners connect spiders to the word arachnids.


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