There are more than 12,000 species of ants in the world. They live on almost every landmass on Earth except Antarctica and a few small islands. Ants live in complex social groups called colonies. They have a four stage life cycle consisting of egg, larva, pupa and adult. Ants communicate with chemical signals called pheromones. They use pheromones to lead other ants to food they find and find their way back to the colony after they are out looking for food.
Tell children they are going to be scientists and study ants! Start by asking children: Have you ever seen an ant? What did it look like? How did you know it was an ant? Where was it? What was it doing? Record children’s observations.
Have a collection of various food items prepared (bread, fruit, meat, grass, cheese, etc…). Explain to children that you are going to do an experiment to see which food items ants prefer. Divide paper plates into fourths with a marker. Allow children to choose four food items they think the ants will prefer. Ask them: What food items do you think the ants will most like to eat? Why do you think so?
Take children outside and go on an ant “hunt”. When you find ants or an anthill, place the plate(s) nearby and then sit back and observe. It may take a few minutes for the ants to find the food. Encourage the children to make observations about the ants while you wait. What do they look like? How do they move? How many ants are there? Count the ants as they visit the food areas. Record the number and the food item. This is your data scientists! When you return to the classroom graph your results and discuss what you learned as a class.
To further the activity, create or purchase an ant farm for your classroom. Keep an ant journal and check on the ants and their activity daily.
For this and other great ideas, use Growing Up WILD’s “Ants on Parade”!
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