Spring and summer are the perfect time to learn about the bugs that share our planet, especially the ubiquitous ant. In fact, with some 12,000 species, there are very few ant-free zones in the world.

Ants are a great choice for this activity because they are nonthreatening to most children, operate out in the open, and have an active and complex social life. Studying a working anthill will inspire budding biologists and other scientists by developing their observation and note-taking skills.

The project: Play insect sleuth by studying an anthill

Get ready: Do some fact-finding

  • Begin your project by going to the library or researching online to get some basic information.
  • Focus on the life of ant colonies, learning about the workers and the queen, for example. This will help kids identify what’s going on when they start their own observations.
  • Give your child a blank journal (a simple spiral-bound notebook will do the trick) to record observations of a colony over several days.

Make it happen: Get an ant’s-eye view

It’s time to do field research — literally.

  • Find an active anthill close to home — you probably won’t have to look too far — and settle down to watch.
  • Have your child start by drawing a picture of an ant in the colony. If you have a magnifying glass, use it to get a close-up look at its anatomy. He can label body parts on the picture and identify the type of ant when you get home.
  • Have him write down what he notices about the ants. Some things to look for include what kind of food they eat, what they do when an ant dies, what roles they play, and how their appearances vary.
  • Once your child is done with his detective work, have him write a story about what he’s seen. He can supplement his observations with online or library research. Have him add more drawings or take photos of the ants.

GreatSchools tip

Try coming back a few times, observing the ant colony at different times of the day.