Sunday, July 03, 2011

The ant project

[This post has been in draft status since May 15.  That's how long it's taken me to get at the photos.]

Right now there are "pavement ants" dropping dirt onto my dryer from the ceiling above. We can't seem to get rid of them.  I hate them. Who doesn't hate ants in the house, or at the picnic?

But there are other ants that are not so hateable.  We had a good time last month reading about Leafcutter Ants.  The Leafcutters are so interesting my kids did a project around them.  I've told you before that my kids don't produce anything, at least not willingly.  Yet, they decided, or maybe agreed, to do it.  That is how cool Leafcutter Ants are.

The diagram is from Enchanted Learning, and no, we are not subscribers.  We used to be, when the kids were younger.  I haven't printed anything from them in a few years, but since I had subscribed for a while, I didn't feel too guilty taking this one thing.  The subscription was worth it when the kids were younger.

It started with a library book.  Doesn't just about everything?  Whenever I step into our local branch I scan the new nonfiction shelves. There are always new books that look interesting there, and I never fail to pick something up.  Sometimes we never get around to reading what I bring home.  But this time we did.

The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct is a beautiful book.  Yes, the photographs of ants are gorgeous.  And amazing.  We couldn't stop marveling over the pictures in this book.  And then we started reading it.

I'll admit that the beginning was tough.  Lots of technical terms, not all explained in the glossary.  (But that's what dictionaries are for, right?)   I thought maybe we wouldn't get beyond the first chapter.   But we kept going, and the book just got better and better.  My kids even took notes while I read it.  OK, I did demand it.  But they didn't argue.  They always argue about taking notes.  There is a lot of evolution talk, so some folks won't like that.  If that bothers you, you could skip those bits and go right into ant behavior. 

Eleanor had fun cutting out the leaves and drawing the little ants.  This doesn't look much like a leafcutter, but it's still cute.

We don't belong to any kind of homeschool coop, and our support group really doesn't exist as such anymore, so we didn't have a science fair.  But we decided to pretend that we did, so the kids could make a display. They also made a papier-mache model of an ant mound, with the intent of making a cross-section to show tunnels.  They didn't plan ahead, though, and it didn't work out.  It was still fun, and an interesting, if not completely satisfying, learning experience. 

Here are some of the sites they used for their research:

University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web (usually our first stop when researching animals of any kind)

National Science Foundation has a video about Leafcutters.

National Geographic, of course.

I wonder what science project we'll do next!


Birdie said...

Very nice!

kerri said...

Haha, in draft since May. I'm sorry but that cracks me up. I so know what you mean. :)

Looks like you had fun though. Maybe you could cook up your own science fair party thing. :)

Gillian said...

Great project! I love it when projects just come together.