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Ant ArchitectureAnt-Architecture

  • Subject:
  • |
  • Grade(s): K-5
  • |
  • Duration: Three class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand the following:
1. How ants create different kinds of colonies, depending on their environment.
2. How ants have different behaviors that allow them to survive in different environments.


For this lesson, you will need:
pens or pencils
books on ants
paper (large sheets 18 ? 24)
computer with Internet access
markers, paints, or colored pencils


1. Work with your students to create a KWL chart. Ask them what they already know and what they would like to know about ant colonies. Make a list of student responses ("in the ground," "in my kitchen," "on the sidewalk"). Encourage students to focus their thinking on the design of ant shelters and the materials used in making them. What do ants need for protection? What different materials would ants use in other parts of the world?
2. Tell your students that they are going to create a class book about different kinds of ant colonies. The book will help them organize what they will learn about ant architecture. Make sure they know that they will be sharing their book with other classes.
3. Collect encyclopedias and a variety of books on ants. If possible, purchase a copy of the TLC Elementary School episode Ants and show your students the segment on ant houses. If you have Internet access for your students, you might also want to bookmark the ant-related Internet sites listed below.
4. Divide your students into groups. Ask each group to use the resources you have collected to gather information on different ant shelters: what they're made of, where they're located, and which species of ants live in them. Students may conduct this research partly in the classroom and partly at home. They can use this simple data collection sheet to record the information they gather about various species and the materials, designs, and locations of their shelters.
5. After the groups have collected data, have them choose two or three of the ant species they studied. Each group should illustrate and describe the species it selected and the shelters that each species builds. You can have one student in each group be the writer, one the illustrator, and one the page designer.
6. Collate the pages into a class book. You can ask any students who finish quickly to create an index and a table of contents for the book. When the book is complete, allow students time to share it with other classes throughout the school. Those other class members might write book reviews, thank you letters, or responses to your students' presentation.

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Instead of having your students conduct research about ants, you can simply take them outside to your recreation area, where they can observe ants in action. Back in the classroom, they can make drawings of what they have seen. They may also dictate sentences about their observations to older students, then add their sentences to their drawings.
Instead of creating a book, older students might use the information they gather to make a presentation to the class. Each group of students can be assigned one of the continents, then make a more comprehensive presentation on the ant shelters that exist in their assigned territory. If possible, they might even make a multimedia presentation using PowerPoint or HyperStudio.

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Discussion Questions

1. Explain how the environment changes the way that ants and humans build their shelters.
2. All animals—even humans—have to deal with changes in the environment. What if there was no rain or the electricity was going to be off for a long period of time? What would people do? What would happen to the world's wildlife? Would humans or other animals be worse off? Why?
3. Discuss how ant jobs are similar to human jobs. Are some ant jobs more important than others are? Are some human jobs more important? What would happen if different ants stopped doing their jobs? What about different humans?
4. Ants on television and in the movies are almost always portrayed as hard workers. Think about the ants you have seen in stories, fables, movies, and television shows. How are these ant characters different from real ants? How are they the same?
5. Ants may seem bad for the environment, but they can also be good for it! Ants are pests at times, but they also keep the environment free of other bugs by eating them. Should humans destroy ant communities near housing developments. What would occur if all of the ants were destroyed? What would occur if the ants are not destroyed?
6. Compare the body parts of ants to those of another insect, like the bee or the butterfly. Which parts are the same? Which parts are different? Use a Venn diagram to organize your comparison.

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You can evaluate your students on their group's page completion using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points: complete facts, colorful and detailed illustrations, attractive page design
  • Two points: some facts, colorful or detailed illustrations, page design finished
  • One point: few facts, limited illustration, disorganized page design
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining how many facts should be required and what would constitute extra credit. Second- and third-grade students, for instance, might only require four facts, but fifth graders might require eight.

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Nest Blueprints
Have students paint or draw a side view of an underground ant nest. Using fingerprints of washable paint, have students add ants to the tunnels: three connected fingerprints make an ant body, and a few quick pen strokes make the legs and antennae. (Use big thumbprints for that queen ant!) Make sure their drawings depict ants in different stages of development, with ants doing different jobs.

Cross-Species Photo Album
Have students bring in photographs of themselves as babies and as they currently look. Then have them draw themselves as they think they will look when they are adults. Beside each picture, direct students to draw ants in their three stages of development: the larva stage next to the baby picture, the pupa next to the current picture, and the adult ant next to the future picture. Lead a discussion about whether ants and humans develop in the same ways.

Can You Do Ant Haiku?
The Japanese haiku, an unrhymed poem, is made up of three lines and 17 syllables. The first and third lines have five syllables and the second line has seven. Haiku are known for making references to the seasons. Challenge students to write haiku about ants and their behaviors. Here is a simple example:
Ants crawl through tunnels.
They eat picnics in summer
And hide in winter.

The best way to study anatomy is often to build a model. Ask your students to choose a variety of ant they particularly like and create a three-dimensional version of it. Their model can be of any size and can use any materials they choose. (Clay, toothpicks, marshmallows, gumdrops, and fabric work really well.) You can also ask them to label the ant's various body parts. When the students are done, you can assemble their work into an ant museum for the whole school to appreciate!

Take a Closer Look
Have students take small magnifying glasses outside and observe ants doing their jobs. (Make sure they don't harm the ants!) Ask them to look for workers carrying crumbs or guards near the opening of an ant mound. Back inside the classroom, have them sketch what they observed in nature journals for later reference.

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Suggested Readings

Elaine Pascoe. Blackbirch Marketing, 1998.
This vibrant, hands-on resource encourages young readers to observe and investigate the ant world. It draws children closer to the everyday activities of several common creatures with simple experiments, fantastic photography, and fascinating facts.

Rebecca Stefoff. Benchmark Books, 1998.
Youngsters will enjoy exploring details of ants' appearance, life cycle, and habitat. You'll find these tiny creatures have a big story to tell!

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Myrmecology - The Scientific Study Of Ants
This is the Web site for myrmecologists—scientists who study ants. It contains extensive information about different ant species.

The BEST ant sites for kids, teachers, families
This is a very good site for children, parents, and teachers to find ant information.

The Wonderful World of Insects
This site contains a world of information about ants and other insects.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    anatomy
Definition: The structure of an organism.
Context: All ants share the same basic anatomy.

speaker    architecture
Definition: The science of designing and constructing buildings.
Context: Some wood ants use architecture to keep themselves warm in cold England.

speaker    chamber
Definition: An enclosed space within a larger space.
Context: Australian ants fold tree leaves into green chambers with floors, walls, and ceilings.

speaker    cold-blooded
Definition: Having a body temperature that varies with the surrounding air, water, or land.
Context: Insects are cold-blooded, meaning that their bodies are the same temperature as the air around them.

speaker    exoskeleton
Definition: An outer hard framework of an animal's body.
Context: The exoskeleton is a hard waterproof armor that supports and protects the ant.

speaker    survival
Definition: To remain alive or in existence.
Context: Ants have gone from being giant flying wasps to tiny earthbound creatures with amazing survival techniques.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: K-2, 3-5
Subject area: science
Knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life.
Knows that plants and animals have features that help them live in different environments.
Knows that plants and animals progress through life cycles of birth, growth and development, reproduction, and death; the details of these life cycles are different for different organisms.

Grade level: K-2, 3-5
Subject area: science
Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
Knows that living things are found almost everywhere in the world and that distinct environments support the life of different types of plants and animals.
Knows that an organism's patterns of behavior are related to the nature of that organism's environment (e.g., kinds and numbers of other organisms present, availability of food and resources, physical characteristics of the environment).

Grade level: science
Subject area: K-2, 3-5
Understands the nature of scientific inquiry.
Knows that learning can come from careful observations and simple experiments.
Knows that scientists use different kinds of investigations (e.g., naturalistic observation of things or events, data collection, controlled experiments), depending on the questions they are trying to answer.

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Diane Hoffman, second grade teacher, teacher trainer, and education consultant.

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