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A Teacher's Guide

The Tarantula Scientist

About the Book

The Tarantula Scientist is the thirteenth title in Houghton Mifflin's nonfiction series Scientists in the Field, the inaugural publication of which was launched with another joint creative effort by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop, The Snake Scientist. To research the spiders for The Tarantula Scientist, the pair traveled with the tarantula scientist, Sam Marshall, to the remote tarantula capital of the world, French Guiana, where they braved 90–degree heat, 99–percent humidity, and angry wasps.

About the Authors

Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, newspaper columnist, documentary scriptwriter, and all–around adventurer. She is also an award-winning author of Houghton children's books. Sy resides in New Hampshire with her husband and a menagerie of animal companions.

Nic Bishop is the award-winning photographer of The Snake Scientist, which was the winner of the 2000 IRA Children's Book Award. He lives in Michigan.

Praise for The Tarantula Scientist

"This [book] would liven up a science curriculum no end, and it might also convince young readers to go beyond the elemental pleasures of 'Ew, gross' to the more sophisticated appreciation of 'Wow, cool.'" — The Bulletin, starred review

"Montgomery has a gift for scene-setting [and] deftly weaves clear explanations into the main text. Bishop's phenomenal photos show spiders mating, shedding their skin, even leaping through the air. It's enough to make Miss Muffet fall in love." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review


The following activties were written by Leigh Lewis, an elementary school teacher in Wynne, Arkansas.

Picture a Tarantula is an activity that builds observation skills. Students will listen to a description of a Goliath birdeater tarantula and draw a picture from that description. This activity points out the importance of detail. It links science, reading/literacy, and art in a way that students love!

Classify, Classify, Classify is an activity that can be utilized in a variety of ways. Students will hear how living organisms are classified, and then they will look at the animals pictured in the book and decide how they should be classified. This is truly an adventure! Once students collect the data, they will organize the information in tables and graphs. Students can do this individually or in groups. This activity links math, science, and technology.

Creature Search is an activity that combines science, writing, and reading. Students will be given a topic from The Tarantula Scientist to research. They will then do a written and oral report. As an added bonus students will be learning about many fascinating plants and animals that live in the jungles and rainforests that are rapidly being destroyed.

The Spider Crossword Puzzle is a fun conclusion to a great book. Students will read The Tarantula Scientist, and then put all of their newly acquired knowledge to use by filling in the puzzle.

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