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Today let's take a look at a children's book about ants with suggestions for accompanying hands-on activities.


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Look Inside an Ant Nest (Pebble Plus: Look Inside Animal Homes) by Megan Nicole Cooley Peterson is a straightforward nonfiction book that explores the unseen world of an ant nest. Laid out with large color photographs on the right side page and simple sentences with controlled, subject-specific vocabulary on the left, it is perfect for the beginning reader (first grade reading level). The large size also makes it easy to hold up and read in front of a group of young children. One of the photographs is by Alex Wild, the rest are from stock sources.

Suggested activities to accompany the book:

1. Ant life cycle

Gather:

  • Construction paper
  • Crayons and or markers
  • Photographs of ant eggs, ant larvae, ant pupae, ant workers, and ant queens (see links below)

Have the children draw each stage, keeping in mind:

  1. Only the queen lays the eggs in most cases. (how to tell if the ant is a queen)
  2. The larvae are legless and resemble a comma or crochet hook in shape (more photos of larvae.)
  3. The eggs are smaller than the workers; the pupae are the same size as the workers or larger. (Is it an egg or a pupa?)
  4. Pupae are sometimes covered with a silken bag called a cocoon and sometimes not, depending on the ant species.
  5. Adult ants emerge from the pupae. Worker pupae are the same size as the workers. Queen and male pupae are larger than the average worker.

For older children, let them construct the life cycle in 3D, for example using marshmallow ants.

2. Ant nests

Dr. Walter Tschinkel has modified a technique for looking at the structure of ant nests by pouring dental plaster or various metals, such as aluminum, into the tunnels, allowing it to dry and then digging up the nest. This gives a negative-space impression of some truly impressive ant nests.

This amazing video shows how it is done by experts. (Do not try this at home).

More about Dr. Walter Tschinkel’s Ant Castles can be found at the Florida State University. He’s says that the ants can build the huge one at the bottom in just five days!

Suggestions:

1. Draw pictures of some of Walter Tschinkel's amazing ant nest casts. Label the chambers and tunnels.

2. For older students: Design and draw plans for an underground home for humans. What would be the advantages of living underground? What might some of the problems be? Try drawing up your plans on Google Sketchup or a similar program.

Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Library Binding: 24 pages
Publisher: Capstone Press (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1429660783
ISBN-13: 978-1429660785

Book was provided by publisher for review purposes.

17

Are you interested in old books about ants? The City Under the Back Steps by Evelyn Sibley Lampman and illustrated by Honore Valintcourt is a children's book about ants that was published in 1960. It is out of print, but you can buy a used copy (if you don't mind paying quite a bit of money). The reason it is expensive is that it is actually a very good book.

The premise of the story is a boy and a girl are shrunken to the size of ants. Suddenly their back yard becomes a terrifying jungle full of dangers and wonders. They are taken underground into an ants' nest where they meet the ants' pet cricket, learn about the life cycles of ants and have a number of adventures. Think of the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids with a much more accurate representation of the life of the ants.

Thanks to my friend Robyn, I was able to listen to the book on CD. She had discovered that Chinaberry has set of CDs for $19.95. Edit:  Sorry, no longer available.

If you like stories that mix sweeping imagination with a great deal of detailed natural history, then you just might want to give it a try.

Have you ever seen this book?

Hardcover: 210 pages
Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (1960)
Language: English
ASIN: B0007E119S

Note: I have an affiliation with Amazon. If you click through this link and buy a book or CD, I will receive a small commission. I have no affiliation with Chinaberry.

4

In another domain I reviewed a children's book that I realized people might be interested in here. It a great beginning reader called Ants-stewartAnts by Melissa Stewart.

Unlike some children's books about ants, all the information appears current and accurate. In the margins are extremely silly riddles and puns, sure to catch the interest of young children. Most of the different kinds of ants are identified, but the names aren’t central to the text. If the child is curious about the ants in the photograph, he or she can find out what kind of ant it is.

Ants is part of the National Geographic Readers series. That means the lucky author has access to the fantastic photographs available in the National Geographic archives. Right away I recognized a couple of photographs by ant specialist and National Geographic photographer, Dr. Mark Moffett. What a visual treat!

If you know a child interested in nature and/or science, you might want to consider picking up this book.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (January 12, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1426306083
ISBN-13: 978-1426306082

National Geographic Readers: Ants

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Additional posts children may find interesting:

Ants Fact of Fiction Quiz
The Little Black Ant
Kids' Questions about Ants