Teach about the body parts of an ant.

Use this section in correlation with the Observing an Ant project. Click on the picture of the ant for a larger printable version.

  • Legs: Ants have six legs. Each leg has two sharp claws at the end that help the ant dig tunnels and climb walls and ceilings without falling. The front legs have a brush at the “elbow” that the ant uses to clean itself.
  • Head: The head of an ant is where its eyes, mandible (jaw), and antennae are attached.
  • Thorax: All of the ant’s legs are attached to this middle body section.
  • Abdomen: Contains the stomach, a special place called the crop where the ant stores extra food, the intestines, and a poison gland.
  • Antennae/Feelers: Ants use these to feel, smell, and taste objects. Each ant has two of them on the front of the head near the eyes.
  • Mandible/Jaw: An ant uses its mandibles to carry objects and can also use them as a weapon during a fight. These jaws open and close sideways, like a pair of scissors.
  • Eyes: Ants have compound eyes, which means they have many tiny eyes that make up two big eyes so they can see in many directions at once. However, ants really do not have very good eyesight. They rely mostly on their antennae to find their way around.
  • Exoskeleton: Ants have a skeleton on the outside of their bodies instead of inside. They do not have skin like we do. The exoskeleton protects the ant almost as if it were wearing heavy armor!

Teach about the classification of animals.

Use this section with the projects on temperature and ant food to help kids understand about differences between types of ants and about scientific classification.

Scientists use a system called classification to keep track of animals. The system has seven levels. Animals are put into different levels based on their characteristics. Here are some examples of characteristics that are used in classification: has fur or skin, is warm-blooded or cold-blooded, has a backbone or not, lives in water or on land,   and eats plants, animals, or both. (See if your children can come up with other characteristics that could be used in classification.) The very last level of the classification system only has animals that all look and act almost identical. This level is called species (say spee-sheez or spee-seez). Here is an example: fire ants and carpenter ants are both ants, so of course they have a lot of characteristics in common. Fire ants and carpenter ants are also different in some ways, such as what they eat and where they live, so these two types of ants belong to two different species.

Teach about these and other ways that ants help out in nature:

  • In their hunt for food, ants clean up the environment by removing dead bugs, leaves, and food items left behind by humans and animals.
  • They eat harmful insects.
  • The tunnels that ants dig in their nests allow more air to reach the soil.

Interested in learning more about ants? Check out these science projects for elementary students.