By Beth Pinyerd
Last week while working with students, we all gathered safely around an ant bed on the playground to observe their activities.
Before we knew it, 30 minutes had flown by and we were still intrigued at the ants traveling in and out of ant hills on the playground.
As a mom of now a 33-year-old son, I began to reflect on his fascination of observing ants in our back yard when he was young. When he was eight years old, he asked us if ants ate meats or sweets. His dad and I said “let’s set up an experiment and see.” We gathered turkey meat and sweet candy bars to put by the ant hills to observe over the next few days. By the end of the week … stay tuned, I’ll tell you our findings at the end of the article.
In this beautiful spring weather, your children can become budding little scientists as they observe ant habits with their bare eye or a magnifying glass. Point out to your child that ants are insects with six legs and body parts and that the large ant is the queen ant. Tell your child that the queen ant is the head of the ants’ colony or home.
As your child observes the ants, have them to record in a journal what they see. They can draw their findings or you can write it for them. Point out the tunnels the ants are making are like rooms in their homes.
Compare the different jobs the ants are doing are like jobs or responsibilities they are doing in your family. This allows your child to express his or herself. Too, as your child asks questions, make a trip to the library to find the answers to their questions in books or articles. This helps in their reading, curiosity and questioning skills which is readiness in the scientific method.
In the classroom, I have set up ant farms for my students to observe. Your child can create an ant farm to observe the busy social life of the ant.
You gather two jars, one that fits into the other with about 3/4 inch of space between them, dirt, ants, a small piece of screen, cereal or candy crumbs. Put the small jar into the larger jar, fill the space between the jars with the dirt, safely add the ants from the yard in a very gentle manner so you do not harm them, sprinkle food on top of the dirt, cover the jars tightly with the screen, watch the ants make tunnels in the dirt, record what you see then let the ants go back to their homes in the backyard.
You can teach your child some valuable character traits as you study ants. The Bible spells this out so well in the book of Proverbs.
Ants work so hard. Children like to be on a schedule and routine as they engage in projects and activities that they truly enjoy. Ants are self-starters and so are children.
• Ants work busily and they cooperate with each other. What a wonderful lesson to point out in teaching your children to get along with others.
• Ants work so hard in the summer as they prepare for the winter. They provide our children a lesson on how to plan ahead in getting chores done.
Some neat snacks that children enjoy are ants on a log, made with washed celery sticks, peanut butter, raisins and a butter knife to spread with. Spread some peanut butter on a celery stick – that’s the log, put the raisins on the log in a row … these are your ants. You can substitute bananas for celery. I have provided my students these snacks and they absolutely love them as you teach them about ants.
A neat catchy tune that we parents and grandparents remember from our childhood days is the little tune called The Ants Come Marching.
Do ants have a sweet tooth or meat tooth? After many days of observing and recording, the ants were found to have a meat tooth with the turkey meat all gone.
Our son did this experiment over and over to prove these findings. I am very thankful for ants because their life habits started our young son on the beginning of the scientific method of observing our world through his young eyes. Parents of children, it is never too young for your child to be little scientists and to guide them to observe their world through the eyes of a child.