Arthropods and the Current Great Mass Extinction: Effective Themes to Decrease Arthropod Fear and Disgust and Increase Positive Environmental Beliefs in Children?

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Earth is experiencing a great mass extinction (GME) that has been caused by the environmentally destructive activities of humans. This GME is having and will have profound effects on Earth's biodiversity if environmental sustainability is not reached. Activities and curriculum tools have been developed to assist teachers in integrating the current GME theme into their existing curriculum. There has also been a recent appeal to incorporate the current GME theme into science and environmental education research but this research has yet to be conducted. This study presents the first time the current GME theme has been assessed in a research setting. This study analyzed the effect living "Poecilotheria" spider activities had on United States children. The variables measured included 1) human fear toward the Poecilotheria spiders; 2) human disgust toward the "Poecilotheria" spiders; and 3) human environmental beliefs associated with the current GMEs impact on the "Poecilotheria" spiders. New to this study is the finding that the use of living spiders in a positive educational setting that addresses the current GME are effective tools in decreasing fear and disgust and increasing positive environmental beliefs toward "Poecilotheria" spiders in children. Teachers of elementary children should consider arthropods, arthropod information and the current GME as effective themes to decrease arthropod fear and disgust and increase positive environmental beliefs in children. Lastly, this study presents a structural equation model showing that the reduction of fear and disgust towards specific animals can increase positive environmental beliefs in children when focused on the current GME.