Our ants arrived!
It felt like Christmas complete with shouts of hooray and looks of wonder.
"Look at them move!"
"How will we get them out of the tube?"
"Let's read the directions!"
Questions. Comments. Ideas.
Just a week before the ants arrived, we found the ant farm on clearance. Thrilled, the children marveled at the box as I I reminisced about the ant farm my older children experienced years prior. In fact, I had been praying I would find an ant habitat for study.
Ant farms make learning come alive.
In the process of getting the habitat set up and becoming acquainted with our new little friends, science intertwined with oral reading (reading the instructions and ant information), reading comprehension (following directions), math (setting a timer to measure duration and measuring water amount), as well as an experiential lesson in patience.
So much learning in a tiny vial of ants.
Ants in the fridge, we watched as the timer counted down. When 10 appeared on the screen, we all instinctively began counting down. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, , 3, 2, 1...
"ZERO! Get the ants!"
"Look at them! They are still."
"They must be sleeping. Time to take them out and put them in!"
Then I worked fast. (Hint: Ants wake up FAST! Be ready to move quickly.)
Once in their new home, the ants got to work. My children were enthralled.
The children sat, watching progress, for at least thirty minutes. As they observed, they asked questions.
- Is that ant dead or sleeping?
- What is that ant doing with the sand?
- Why are they piling the sand at the top?
- Why do they crawl over one another?
- I wonder what they will do while we are sleeping?
- Did that ant die already?
- Do we have a queen?
- What does a queen look like?
Our ant study was just beginning!
Extended ant learning study for all ages
Read a good book. Experiences help children understand written material and fuel further learning. If a child becomes interested in a topic, place books related to the interest in the home: on end tables, night stands, or book shelves. If a study pops up spontaneously, plan a visit to the library and help the learner find the section containing books about the interest. Some of the ant books we read:
- One Hundred Hungry Ants, Elinor J. Pinczes
- The Ant and the Grasshopper, Amy Lowry Poole
- Are You an Ant, Judy Allen
- Ant Cities, Arthur Dorros
- The Life and Times of the Ant, Charles Micucci
Observe ants in their natural habitat. Take learning outdoors. Look for ants. Spend time watching their activities. Take pictures and make your own ant study book or journal.
Make a sketch. Sketching integrates another learning modality into the experience. In an ant study, learners can go outside and observe real ants, sketching what they see. This will likely lead to wanting to know more about ant anatomy and environments. Add your sketch to your ant study journal.
Learn and label body parts. Watching the ants made my children curious about the ant's body. From their questions, we researched and learned ant anatomy, drawing and labeling each major part (head, thorax, abdomen) as well as the more specific parts (mandible, antennae, compound eye, legs). Enchanted Learning offers a diagram of the anatomy and ant information.Life Studies site has a page devoted to ant study. Another great addition to an ant study journal.
Study the lifecycle. Every living creature has a lifecycle. Ants are no different. In fact, one of my children asked if there were eggs in the vial. Enchanted Learning helped us here, too.
Take a closer look. Magnifying glasses are great tools for looking at live ants. However, the Magiscope is a great way to take an even closer look. Do so with a few dead ants. Otherwise, you may get stung or they may crawl away from the stage.
Have an older learner, perhaps middle and high schooler? Research myrmecology and entomology. How are these branches of science related? Who are the leading scientists in these areas and what contributions did they make to the field? How did their works impact science and the general population? If opportunities are available--perhaps through a local pest control service, zoo, or college campus--consider interviewing a myrmecologist or entomologist. We discovered how one scientist is studying ants and bees.
Arizona State University School of Life Science, Ask a Biologist page.
We bought our ants through Life Studies
Ready to learn about ants? The process can be one of the most rewarding and remembered events of childhood learning. If you decide to introduce learners to this amazing creature, tell us about your experiences, or leave helpful resources your found, in the comments.