DIXFIELD – Children from the River Valley gathered in the Ludden Memorial Library meeting room on July 13 for a Chewonki Foundation presentation on animals with superhero powers.

Matt Weeks, the Chewonki Foundation Traveling Natural History instructor, explained to the children that Chewonki is a “non-profit education foundation,” and that everything at the Chewonki Foundation was “collected and donated” to them.

“We all really like animals at Chewonki, and we try and take care of a bunch of them that need a little extra help,” Weeks said.

He told the children that there are “a lot of superheroes out there that are based off of animals,” including Batman and Spiderman.

“What kind of animal do you think inspires Batman,” Weeks asked, and the entire room yelled, “Bat!”

“That’s right,” Weeks continued. “When you look at Batman, and look at a bat, what similarities do you see?”

One child pointed out that Batman’s cape is shaped like the wings of a bat.

“Exactly, and that cape allows him to fly from one place to another,” Weeks said. “Now, let’s talk about why Batman comes out at night. Why do you guys think he comes out only at night?”

A few children said that it was to “catch the bad guys.”

“Yes, he comes out to catch the bad guys, and what about regular bats?” Weeks said. “What reason could they have to come out at night?”

“Bugs!” came a voice from the back of the room.

Weeks grinned and said, “Bats love eating bugs, and what better time to catch some bugs than at night? For the bats, the mosquitos are the bad guys.”

Weeks asked the children how many mosquitos they thought bats ate in a single night.

One child guessed 100, while another swung to the other end of the spectrum and guessed 10 million.

Weeks laughed and said, “It’s actually more like 1,200. But that’s still a lot for a single night!”

After Weeks finished talking about bats, he switched to spiders, and explained how Stan Lee, the creator of the Spiderman comics, appropriated characteristics from spiders and used them in the creation of the Spiderman character.

“Spiderman can create a web by sticking out his hand and shooting it from his wrist,” Weeks said. “As we know, spiders can spin webs to make a nest or to catch their prey.”

Weeks also pointed out that Spiderman’s ability to climb up buildings with nothing but his hands is another characteristic shared with spiders, and that Spiderman’s most incredulous feature, the “Spidey Sense,” is something that real spiders can rely on.

“When you think about the Spidey Sense, it seems kind of weird,” Weeks said. “However, spiders have somewhere between 600,000 and 1 million little hairs on their body that allow them to feel when prey is descending on them. They can usually feel the flapping of a bird’s wings from quite far away.”

As discussion about spiders winded down, Weeks pulled a glass container with a large spider inside from his bag.

“This is Parker,” Weeks said. “She’s a Chilean Rose tarantula.”

Weeks walked Parker around the room, allowing the children to peek into the container.

“Just be careful,” Weeks warned. “We don’t want to scare her by sticking our face or hand into the container. She can bite when she’s scared.

Weeks was presenting at the Ludden Memorial Library as part of the library’s summer reading program.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.