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TEACHING GUIDES


Spiders!:
Arachnophobia


Thanks to a story that originally aired on Frontiers two seasons ago, a Seattle woman with an extreme case of arachnophobia is now able to live a normal life. As you see in this episode, arachnophobia can be treated using virtual reality therapy. We'll meet Hunter Hoffman, who worked with the woman's therapist, Al Carlin, to develop a virtual SpiderWorld, complete with virtual spiders.

Curriculum Links
National Science Education Standards
Related Frontiers Show and Activities
Activity: Spider Jeopardy
Phobias: Facing Up to Fear




CURRICULUM LINKS


BIOLOGY/
LIFE SCIENCE


arachnids

COMPUTER
SCIENCE


virtual reality

HEALTH
SCIENCE


 

PSYCHOLOGY


anxiety, fear, phobia

TECHNOLOGY


 




NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

SCIENCE AS INQUIRY / LIFE SCIENCE
5-8: Regulation and Behavior, Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms
9-12: Behavior of Organisms
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
5-8, 9-12: Abilities of Technological Design, Understanding About Science and Technology
SCIENCE IN PERSONAL AND SOCIAL PERSPECTIVES
5-8: Personal Health, Science and Technology in Society
9-12: Personal and Community Health, Science and Technology in Local, National and Global Challenges
HISTORY AND NATURE OF SCIENCE
5-8: Science as a Human Endeavor
9-12: Science as a Human Endeavor, Nature of Scientific Knowledge




RELATED FRONTIERS SHOW AND ACTIVITIES



ACTIVITY: SPIDER JEOPARDY

Have students work in teams to research spider facts and write answers and questions in classic Jeopardy! format. Then use the questions for team competition. The Spider Jeopardy! quiz below can help students get started. Students will test their knowledge of spiders by providing the "questions" to these clues, in classic Jeopardy! format.

ANSWER QUESTION
1. While insects have six of these, spiders have eight.  
2. Produced by a spider's spinnerets, it is five times stronger than steel; researchers are trying to synthesize it in the lab.  
3. Unlike humans and other mammals, spiders have this kind of skeleton.  
4. This animal phylum includes spiders, insects, crustaceans and other invertebrates.  
5. The bite of either of these two spiders found in North America can be fatal.  
6. People once believed the bite of this big, hairy spider could be cured only by dancing the tarantella.  
7. Spiders, daddy-longlegs, ticks, scorpions and mites belong to this class of animals.  
8. All spiders spin silk. Not all spiders make these.  
9. In classic Greek mythology, this young girl won a weaving contest with the goddess Athena, who turned the girl into a spider.  
10. Spiders spin many kinds of webs. Identify two types seen in this episode of Frontiers.  


Spider Jeopardy! Questions: 1. What are legs? 2. What is silk or spider silk? 3. What is an exoskeleton? 4. What are arthropods or Arthropoda? 5. What are brown recluse or black widow spiders? 6. What is a tarantula? 7. What are arachnids or Arachnida? 8. What are webs? 9. Who was Arachne? 10. What are funnel and orb webs?



PHOBIAS: FACING UP TO FEAR

A phobia is an intense fear of a specific thing, like spiders. It's normal to be afraid of some things, but a phobia is different from simply being afraid. A phobia is a fear so strong that it affects one's quality of life. For example, the woman featured in this episode of Frontiers was so afraid of encountering a spider that she became hesitant to leave her house.

One treatment that has been shown to help phobic patients is desensitization, in which the patient is gradually exposed to the feared object or situation. The advantage of using virtual reality for desensitization therapy is that VR is used in a clinical setting and can be controlled by the therapist or patient. As you see in this episode of Frontiers, as Joanne was systematically exposed to the experience of seeing and touching spiders through VR therapy, she gradually became more comfortable with spiders.


EXTENSIONS

  1. Brainstorm other medical applications of virtual reality therapy. You may want to refer to the story about using VR to treat fear of heights (Virtual Fear) in 21st Century Medicine (Show 605).

  2. Find out more about Hunter Hoffman's research projects in virtual reality at www.hitl.washington.edu/

  3. Investigate the phenomenon of arachnophobia and theories about why it exists.

  4. CONTEST IDEA: Who can find and photograph the largest spider web? Without disturbing the spider, lightly mist the web with water before photographing.

  5. Research the origins of references to spiders in popular movies, stories, songs, myths, poems and nursery rhymes. For example, Miss Muffet was a real girl. Her father, Thomas Muffet, made his daughter eat mashed spiders when she was sick. This remedy was allegedly a common treatment for colds 200 years ago.





 

Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.