In today’s mini-science lesson…
After lunch, I asked Logan to go check the mailbox, and within a few seconds, he came running back screaming “Sissy, Sissy, come see this!”.
Madison darted out the front door, and after a few seconds, in the distance, I could hear “Daddy! Daddy! Come see this!”.
I exited the house, and see both kids at the end of the driveway looking down, still very excited.
When I got to their location, and looked, I could see a big cluster of small ants that had swarmed for some reason, and I started to explain to the kids, that ants work as a group, and explain the various functions of each group, and what they provided to the colony.
The scout ants go out first, and explore for food, and when they do find food, the scout ants return to the colony, leaving a scent trail for the foraging ants to follow, back to the found food, and with each back and forth from the colony to the food, the scent trail is built up.
In this case, there was no visible reason why the ants had swarmed, but there were two very distinct tails going in opposite directions, which I followed, and show the kids where the ants where disappearing into the ground.
I also explained that both entrances where most likely part of the same colony, because ants where smart enough to do so, just encase one entrance got destroyed, the ants could escape out the other side. (Being a home owner, the concept of the main colony being in the middle of my driveway entrance was not the most comforting.)
Returning to the main swarm, I asked the kids if they wanted to see something cool, and I proceeded to gently blow on the group, and as I expected the ants started to scatter, to the delight of “That’s cool!” and “Let me try!”.
It was from here I said “I have an idea!”, to which Madison responded, “I don’t like when he says that.”
I went back inside the house, and grabbed a small container of crackers, and returned to the driveway edge.
Breaking the crackers into smaller pieces, I placed the first piece in the center of the main swarm, and as expected the ants started to scatter, but soon where crawling and biting the cracker, trying to break it into smaller pieces to be carried off.
We watched for a few minutes, and because the crackers were orange, it was easy to see some of the ants heading back to the colony.
I also explained that ants were capable of carrying things may times their own size. We also saw several ants working together to carry off larger pieces, and I explained how ants work together for the good of the colony.
After a few more minutes of watching, we went back inside the house to get ready for some soccer, but before we left, Logan insisted that we take another look at the ants.
When we got back to the foot of the driveway, the kids noticed that several of the larger cracker pieces has moved several inches since we had last looked. I was able to point out that their noticing the movement of the crackers was a good observation, and good observations are very important when doing science.
Here is a perfect, innocent way to introduce your kids to the wonders of nature and science.
What started as a routine trip to the mailbox, turned into a basic lesson on ant colonies and how they function, as well as the importance of good observations.
Logan is now obsessed with checking on the ants!