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Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans

The Queen's Empire
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for Teachers is divided into four sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the Lesson.
Steps -- Conducting the Lesson.
Extensions -- Additional Activities.
Tips -- Managing Resources and Student Activities.


Student Prerequisites:
Students will need to know how to use various search engines to locate Web sites and information online; be able to download text/graphics from the Web; and have fundamental research skills.

This lesson should be done as part of a unit on insects. It would be helpful if students had experience with making observations about animals and their habitats, but it is not necessary.

  • Access to a backyard or park.
  • 10 gallon glass jar or an ant farm or fish tank.
  • Soil to fill the jar or tank.
  • Ant food (for example, seeds, dead insects, peanut butter, yogurt, bread crumbs).
  • A sponge.
  • Water.
  • Ants (collected from backyard or park).
Computer Resources:
You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:

  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.

For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.

The following sites should be bookmarked:

  • Welcome to Gordon's Entomological Home Page

    This Web site is excellent because it has a little bit of everything. You can ask questions of an entomological expert ( or obtain pictures of different types of ants from the art gallery. There is also a chat room for ant lovers.

  • Myrmecology: The Science of Ants

    Great information on ant colonies and wingless, infertile female workers, which provide defense, foraging, and brood-tending. Other areas of note: Myrmecology Chat Room, Nest-Building, and Foraging.

  • The Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program

    Created in 1973 by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program encourages individuals to create wildlife habitats. NWF provides information and assistance not only to homeowners, but also to schools, businesses, and community groups that are interested in creating wildlife and environmentally friendly landscapes. These areas are particularly worth investigating: Creating a Habitat, Online Education Discussion, Habitats Newsletter, and Schoolyard Habitats. Spanish speakers can find Spanish language articles from Ranger Rick.

  • Cooperative Extension Service: Imported Fire Ant Biology

    A collection of facts and pictures that describe how to identify ants, colony life, life cycle, and the role of the queen.

  • Army Ants, Leaf-Cutter Ants, and Fire Ants

    This informative Web site contains information on leaf-cutter, army, and fire ants. The site includes species' geographical locations, eating habits, information on the size of ant colonies, and a recipe for a leaf-cutter ant's meal. Also discussed is the hierarchy of forager, worker, and queen ants.

  • Ant-Related Links

    This Web site has ant image databases, links to myrmecologists pages, and descriptions of ants from other countries.

  • The Ant Cam

    This is a great site to help you start creating your ant farm. You can download MPEG, Quick Time, and other movie files on ant activities.


    Time Allotment:
    This lesson may be conducted during four class periods, as part of a week-long insect lesson. If students express a great deal of interest, extend the unit for another day or two.

  • Before you begin this lesson, take your students to the backyard of the school or a nearby park. Have your students observe ants to see where they live and what they eat. The class may list details such as the ants' activities, the amount of food they transport, and so on.

  • When they return to the classroom, students should brainstorm to identify behavioral characteristics of the ants they observed. List students' responses on a flip chart, then place the words under general categories: food, habitat, ant jobs, parts of the body, and so on. Explain to the students that they will learn more about ants during their research activity.

  • Instruct students to conduct Web research about ants. Have them find pictures of the types of ants they saw in the backyard. Students may also join a variety of discussion forums listed above. The objective is to make students realize how ants create their own worlds. Guide your students' Web research with questions along these lines:
    • Why are hills made for some ant nests?
    • What do ants keep in their rooms and tunnels?
    • During the cold weather what part of the tunnels are used?
    • What type of jobs are performed by worker ants?
    • What type of food do harvester ants eat?
    • Where do harvester ants store food?
    • Why must an ant colony have a queen ant?
    • Describe the various stages of ant growth -- egg, larvae, pupae, adult.
    • How is the queen ant different from the other ants in the colony?
    • What are ant antennae used for?
    • How much can an ant lift?
    • How do ants communicate?
    • Describe the body parts of an ant. (Hard jointed exoskeleton; head, with one pair of antennae; thorax, with three pairs of legs and (usually) two pairs of wings; and the abdomen.)
    Distribute the Student Pathway, found in Organizers for Students, to help students focus their research. When students have answered the questions, have them share their findings with the class.

  • After an in-depth discussion, divide the class into two groups.

    Group 1: These students will conduct more research on the Web, and refine or add to the list of behavioral characteristics of an ant.

    Group 2: Have this group compile their factual information about ants and their body parts. Also, have them download ant pictures to examine.

    Students will use their research to help them write observations about ant farms (Step 5). They may also wish to make a booklet and keep it in the classroom for future reference.

  • Hands-On Group Activity: Creating an Ant Farm

    Collect ants from your backyard or nearby park. Keep in mind when gathering ants that they might bite or sting. Take a glass jar or ant farm or fish tank with you. Sift dirt into the jar, then place ants inside. Moisten a sponge with water and place it in the top of the jar with some food. The food could consist of seeds, dead insects, peanut butter, yogurt, bread crumbs, or sweets, depending on what type of ants you have. Keep the ant farm in a dark place, so the ants will feel as if they are underground. During certain hours of the day you may place the jar on a table while students write their observations in journals.

    Select any of the following ant species to start your colony: harvester, janitor, cornfield, carpenter, thief, army. Pick a species native to your area.

    Once the ant farm is set up, students can continue to explore the ant world by making observations and writing their findings in their science journal. They can use the Ant Farm Activity Worksheet, located in Organizers for Students, to help focus their observations. You may also want to have students look at movie files, showing activity in an ant farm, downloaded from The Ant Cam (

    Optional: Create more farms with different species of ants. Compare and contrast their living habits.


    Social Studies: Have students research ant species in other countries. What are the differences?

    Math: Students may measure the height of ant mounds and the length of the tunnels. Have them figure out the ratio of an ant's weight compared to the food that it carries or consumes.

    Language Arts: Have the class write a booklet on their findings with their observations and graphics. Place the booklet in the school library.

    Have students write essays titled, "If I were an ant..."


    One Computer in the Classroom
    If you have access to one computer in your classroom, you can organize your class in several ways. Divide your class into two groups. Instruct one of the groups to do paper research while the second group is working on the computer. Bring in books, encyclopedias, etc., from the library for the group doing paper research. Lead the group working at the computer through an Internet search or allow the students in the class to take turns. (Always have a set of bookmarks ready for the students to look for.) When the groups have finished working have them switch places.

    If you have a big monitor or projection facilities, you can do Internet research together as a class. Make sure that every student in your class can see the screen, go to the relevant Web site(s), and review the information presented there. You can also select a search engine page and allow your students to suggest the search criteria. Again, bookmark and/or print the pages that you think are helpful for reference later.

    Several Computers in the Classroom
    Divide your class into small groups. Groups can do Internet research using pages you have bookmarked. Group members should take turns navigating the bookmarked sites.

    You can also set the class up so that each computer is dedicated to a number of sites. Students will then move around the classroom, getting different information from each station.

    Using a Computer Lab
    A computer center or lab space, with a computer-to-student ratio of one to three, is ideal for doing Web-based projects. This way, the small groups of students can help each other if problems or questions arise. It is often beneficial to bookmark sites for students ahead of time.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students