Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Ants and Their Nest Class

In preparing for our move, I have come across some materials that I have save from studies and classes I did with my older kids when they were young. I thought I might share some of them with you, as they may be of interest to those who have young ones still. This was a class I taught at a local homeschool co-op in 2001 for children Pre-K to 1st grade in 2001. The following are pages from a booklet I made the students after the class was over to have as a keepsake, but it actually gives a lot of information on what activities we did and how we did them. I sent home questions for them to answer by observation and the questions and their answers are in the quotes.

I provided the students with circles for the head and thorax and ovals for the abdomen of their ants. I also provided a pile of rectangles for the legs and antennae and they had to clue the parts together to make their ant. They also drew and made their own paper ants in their free time.

Going outside on an ant hunt, we ask a lot of questions and answer a lot of questions. We find some ants in a natural setting...in trees and in the ground.

The students learned that the queen ant lays the eggs and the nurse ant takes care of them. We looked at pictures of the different stages of ant development -eggs, larvae, pupae and adult and played games, putting them in order. We looked at a poster of the different stages and learned that newly hatched ants are white.

They drew pictures of the stages.

We set up the ant farm together, step-by-step, and learned what ants need to live. Some families took the ant farm home for a week to take care of it and watch the changes.

We experienced what tunnel building and exploring what tunnels are like for ants in many ways. We looked at a poster of ant nest. Students shared what they saw in the ant farm. They crawled through a play tunnel and sat in a table-tent chamber. They dug in sand, both dry and damp to build tunnels. Later, they built tunnels and chambers out of small boxes and cardboard tubes.

Each student made a chamber and two tunnels out of construction paper and we put them together to form an ant nest mural. They added the paper ants they had made earlier.
The students pretended to be scout ants in an anthill. They followed a scent trail to a box of crackers and carried the crackers back to the anthill to eat. We made paper antennae to wear. Then we divided the class into two anthills the strawberry-scented ants and the peppermint-scented ants (extract on cotton balls). The children learned to be guard ants, standing at the entrance of their hill and checking the scent of the incoming ants, letting in those that smelled like their nest and not those that did not, protecting the net from enemy ants. Everyone got a chance to be a guard ant and an incoming ant, both friend and foe.

Cooperative problem solving was encouraged as four students worked together to move a large sleeping bag caterpillar across the room and into a tunnel. The problem of how to fit a large object into a relatively small, enclosed space challenged students to decide whether to carry, push or pull it through the tunnel. Teamwork, as with ants, is necessary to accomplish this task.

We took recycled materials such as paper towel and toilet paper tubes and oatmeal boxes and lots of tape to build our own 3-D ant nest. We used plastic ants to role-play ant activities in their nest. 

To review the different jobs the ants do, the students took on the roles themselves and added things to the mural. The scout ant made paper food to add to the mural. The nurse ant added paper eggs, larvae and pupae. The housekeeper ants made paper dead ants to be carried out of the nest. The worker ants added small pieces of paper at the entrance to the nest to represent a pile of dirt carried out of the nest. The students also practiced being scout ants by carrying the snack to the table and the housekeeper ants cleaned the tables after snack time.

Working together we filled an anthill game board (which could be made by just drawing an ant hill under the ground with tunnels and chambers) with eggs, nurse ants, guard ants, scout ants, housekeeper ants, crackers, caterpillars and grasshoppers according to the number on the cards (you could use a die roll instead). This helped review all we had learned as well as practiced counting skills.  Older students could fill out a recording sheet to help them keep tract of the anthill while practice writing numbers. Simple addition and subtraction concepts were incorporated into this game, too.



  1. So many ideas in this post! I like the dragging food activity.

  2. I love this! What a great collection of ideas. I wish I had more GEMS studies, they're so well put together.

  3. Wow! These activities are so engaging. You did a great job with this!! I know I'll be using some of these ideas in the future. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Oh boy! Oh boy! Your boys especially would love a documentary on fire ants (like the ones we have in TX)!! Do you know that they will form a mound and float on water for up to two months, protecting the queen and eggs the entire time, if they are flooded out of the ground? I believe it was a National Geographic documentary on Fire Ants or possibly something on You Tube. If I think of it, I will get back to you. The show was about 1 HR in length. Absolutely amazing.

  5. Wow - great resources! Pinning it for our spring insects unit.

  6. I love this post. I'm going to pin it for a summer lesson plan for my kids. You have such amazing ideas!

  7. This is great--thanks for sharing! I'll be saving these ideas. :)

  8. Anonymous4.2.13

    What a full study. My guys would love to do something like that!


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