Wagler, R., & Wagler, A. (2017). Understanding how Preservice Teachers’ Fear, Perceived Danger and Disgust Affects the Incorporation of Arachnid Information into the Elementary Science Classroom. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL & SCIENCE EDUCATION, 12(2), 213-231.
Arachnids are predatory arthropods that are beneficial to humans in many ways, with common examples including spiders and scorpions. Despite the importance of arachnids to global ecosystems, the fear of spiders in specific human groups is well documented. Arachnids are a very diverse class (i.e., Arachnida) encompassing eleven extant orders with over 100,000 described species but little is known about other emotions and beliefs humans have towards most other arachnid orders. Because of the importance of arachnids to global ecosystems and the services they provide to humanity, elementary children should learn about arachnids. However, prior research shows that preservice elementary teachers do not plan to include information about arachnids in their classrooms. The current study analyzed the effect a living arachnid workshop had on United States (US) kindergarten through sixth grade (K-6) preservice elementary teachers’ emotions and beliefs towards living arachnids and sought to see if the arachnid workshop could reduce the participants fear, perceived danger and disgust towards arachnids and increase their likelihood of incorporating information about arachnids into their science classroom. Five living arachnids from five of the eleven extant arachnid orders were used in the study, which is the most biodiverse group of arachnids used in a study to assess the emotions and beliefs humans have toward arachnids. This study employs a longitudinal design (i.e., pretest, posttest 1 and posttest 2) with randomly assigned treatment and control groups thereby giving the researchers the ability to make casual claims and assess the effect of the intervention over a longer period of time. The treatment group exhibited a steady and maintained decrease in the levels of fear, perceived danger and disgust across the time points, while the control group exhibited little change in these responses. A positive change in the likelihood of incorporation for each of the animals across time for the treatment group was found, while the control group showed little or no change in these responses across time. Implications of the study and future research are presented that are applicable to preservice elementary teachers, university science education instructors and teacher training programs.