Exposure demystifies spiders for children

By Tiago Zenero, NewsNetNebraska

Creepy and dangerous. That is how many people would define spiders.

“They scare me,” Janet Hamilton said while she wached her child petting a spider.

Spiders have eight legs and depending on the species can have 8, 6, 4, 2, or no eyes, have neither wings nor antennae, and produce cobweb or a kind of silk.

“I have never been afraid of spiders, but I didn’t like to get too close of them”, Lidia Lacerda, Agronomy major of UNL, said. “Only after I started University I got more curious about their lives.”

Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, or anything related to these animals, is one of the 10 most common fears in the world according to the website 10 most common phobias. 50% of women and 10% of men show signs of this kind of phobia.

“There are lots of myths about spiders,” said Eileen Hebets, Professor at UNL School of Biological Sciences, who has worked with spiders since 1993. “I find that people are afraid of things that they don’t know much about and as soon as they start learning about the spiders, the animals become much less scary and much less creepy.”

Trying to demystify those stories, Hebets led “Sunday with a Scientist” at Morrill Hall February 17.

During the event, kids looked at arachnids, learned about and even touched them.

“One of my big goals with this event was to both dispel some of the myths that are out there and also to introduce kids and adults alike to spiders in a very educational way,” Hebets said.

Hebets said 847 people attended the event.

Cory Ohara, 6, said that he liked the animals and thought it was amazing to look at them through the microscope.

“I learned a lot of thing about spiders here,” the boy said.

The event was supported by volunteers. The majority of them were graduate students from Biology with others from Business Administration, Natural Resources, and Psychology.

Amazed instead of scared, children took what they learned about arachnids home.

“One parent wrote me and said that her kids were dancing like spiders all night long last night and she couldn’t get them to bed,” Hebets said. “I think it was really successful.”

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