Thursday, July 2, 2009

Don't Get Rid of Your Ants

I know for large centers it's nearly impossible to keep keep an antpile around, especially if you contract services for pest removal. But it's a worthwhile endeavor. Ants in their natural habitat provide children (especially those 4 and up) with a wonderful science experience. Much more than a plastic, indoor ant farm can ever provide.

I know we all want to protect children from bites and of course we can get swept away with covering our assets and avoiding litigation or even licensing problems when it comes to insect extermination, but if you can, find the time to learn the difference between the ant baddies (like fire ants) and the ant goodies (like those little black ants that will crawl all over you and don't have much biting power) that live in your neck of the woods. Even sugar ants aren't a pest when they're at the edge of the playground or yard and they don't come inside to eat all your sweets.

Let the children take out a teaspoon of sugar, a piece of bread or a cookie leftover from snack and allow them to watch what the ants do with it. Talk to them about the life of the anthill and the different roles of the ants. If you ever happen to see an ant eating a dead grasshopper, use the opportunity to talk about the circle of life and the food chain. Ants are a rich source of outdoor scientific observation for young and old and there are lots of ways to extend learning about ants in the classroom.