What is this thing?
This is a wolf spider. It's a good guy. You can tell the students not to worry about it losing a leg, because when it molts (outgrows its skin as it gets bigger and gets new skin) it will get a new leg!
Wolf spiders are ground dwellers that live and hunt in lawns, grass and leaf litter, possibly near foundations, in basements and under porches. A fun spooky activity is to “headlight” wolf spiders in your lawn. Their eyes reflect light. At night, hold a bright flashlight about head level and shine it over your lawn. You may be surprised at how many tiny red or green eyes reflect back at you! The fine hairs on their legs detect air movement by potential prey or predators. They can spin silk, but don’t make a web. Instead they construct burrows in the ground and use silk to line them and for creating egg sacs. But a really unique sight is a mama spider carrying all her newly hatched spiderlings on her back. These spiders are part of a healthy ecosystem, but won’t survive indoors. Escort a stray visitor outside.
Thank you - I thought it was appropriate for this guy to show up the week of Halloween!