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Description of Unit

In this task, second grade students will learn about species of ants found around their school and throughout Texas. The students will observe and compare the physical characteristics and behaviors of ants as they go through their unique life cycle. They will also provide examples of how ants depend on each other and on their environment to meet basic needs. To accomplish this, students will observe and record ant behavior in the schoolyard; create a model of an ant life cycle; design and create a graphic organizer to collect information about an ant species; and write a persuasive letter or record a podcast to take a stand on whether an ant species should be protected or have its population controlled in Texas.

This guide links the Hey, Little Ant unit to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for second graders. Hey, Little Ant is a science unit that allows students to study ants in their natural habitat and relate their observations to scientific concepts (e.g., basic needs of living organisms, life cycles, physical characteristics, behaviors, environments). Hey, Little Ant also has interdisciplinary connections to the English language arts and reading disciplines. In addition to scientific observation, students will use the book Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose as a mentor text throughout the unit. The book will provide an example of how to examine point of view. For the final product, students will compose a persuasive letter (as outlined in the English Language Arts and Reading TEKS) and take a position on whether an ant species should be protected in Texas. The following document includes the applicable TEKS and the details of the Hey, Little Ant unit. The final section of this document presents the applicable Texas College and Career Readiness Standards adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) on January 24, 2008.

Phase I. Learning Experiences

  1. The students will begin the unit by observing ants in a controlled setting (i.e., the classroom). The teacher will collect a few ants from the schoolyard, bring them into the classroom, and place them in a terrarium container or clear jar with holes in the lid (an ant farm would be especially useful for this activity but it is not necessary). Students will observe the behavior of the ants and create a KWL chart. They will brainstorm as many questions as they can think of about the ants. Additional activities and information related to ants can be found on Brain Pop
  2. The teacher will read the book Hey, Little Ant, by Phillip and Hannah Hoose, to the students. The teacher will then facilitate a class discussion on the following topics:
    • The students’ personal experiences with ants
    • The authors’ purpose for writing the story
    • What students liked or didn’t like about the story
    • The point of view of the characters
  3. Students will investigate ant behavior in the schoolyard environment and record observations using scientific tools. Before the activity begins, the class will develop a list of safety rules and decide upon equipment to use during the investigation. The teacher will then take the students outside and release the collected ants back onto the anthill in the schoolyard. Students will carefully observe the ants’ behavior for approximately 20 minutes. Some observations that they should record include the following:
    • How do ants move?
    • Do they move together? Alone? Both?
    • Do they move in a line?
    • What are the ants doing when they leave the anthill?
    • Do ants appear to work together or individually?
    • How do ants take care of their basic needs?
    • How far away will the ants stray from their anthill?
  4. The students will conduct an experiment to find out how long it takes for the schoolyard ants to move a pile of breadcrumbs. Being careful not to disturb the anthill, the teacher will place a small pile of bread crumbs one yard away from the anthill. The students will begin timing the ants when the first ant discovers the pile of bread crumbs and begins moving them back to the anthill. They will continue timing how long it takes for the ants to take all of the crumbs back to the anthill and record their data and observations.
  5. The class will work together to research and identify the specific species of ant that they have been observing, and students will create a model of the ant’s life cycle by using found objects from home or school. In small groups, students will first use library books, websites, and other resources to research details about the ant’s physical structure and life cycle. They will then create a model with the information they have gathered. The model should be labeled with scientific descriptions of life cycle stages and anatomical structures. Student groups will present their models to the class and make recommendations to other groups for improvements upon their models. Students will then be allowed to improve their models based on the suggestions of their classmates.
  6. In their small groups, students will design and create a research graphic organizer about the schoolyard ants. The teacher will explain to students that scientists use graphic organizers to help collect data. The teacher will provide examples of different types of graphic organizers (e.g., webs, matrices, folded graphic organizers, T-charts, Venn diagrams). In their groups, students will determine which type of graphic organizer would be the most efficient for collecting information. They can choose one of the examples provided by the teacher or design a new type of graphic organizer in their group. The students will create a large version of the type of graphic organizer that they want to use and prepare to fill it with information that they gather on the species of ant.
  7. The student groups will research the ant species discovered in the schoolyard and compile relevant data. Information that they will look for includes: name of the species, life span, food, behavior, basic needs, environment, physical description, predators, etc. Student groups should be sure to determine if the schoolyard ant is an invasive species and whether it might harm or help the schoolyard environment. Students in each group will split up the information to be researched and fill in the graphic organizer.

Phase II. Independent Research

A. Research process

  1. Selecting a topic. There are over 250 different species of ants in Texas—some native and some invasive. Each student will select a species of ant found in Texas to research further (
  2. Asking guiding questions. The student will develop three to five guiding questions to drive research. Examples of helpful guiding questions include the following:
    • How has this species of ant harmed or hurt the environment?
    • Is this an invasive species? If so, why is it considered an invasive species?
    • What are the different public or scientific opinions about this type of ant?
    • Has the species of ant changed in population over time?
    • Should this ant species be controlled or protected?
  3. Creating a research proposal. The student will create a research proposal about the selected species of ant and include the following information:
    • Name of the species
    • Life span
    • Food
    • Behavior
    • Basic needs
    • Environment
    • Predators
    • Whether it is an invasive species or not
    • Whether the species helps or harms its environment
  4. Conducting the research. The student will consult the school librarian to find appropriate books and/or Internet resources to inform their research and final product. After conducting the research, each student will be asked to decide if this species of ant is helpful or harmful to its environment.

B. The product

The student will refer back to the mentor text, Hey, Little Ant, and consider the point of view of the boy and point of view of the ant within the text. Based on the information discovered during research, the student will take a position about whether the species of ant should be protected or have its population controlled. The student will choose one of the following product options.

  1. The student will compose a persuasive letter to justify his or her position on the species of ant. The student may choose to write the letter from either the point of view of the ant or the point of view of a human. He or she will explain why the ant species should be protected or have its population controlled. The student must justify his or her position with facts taken from research.
  2. The student will record a brief podcast to justify his or her position on the species of ant. The student may choose to assume the point of view of the ant or the point of view of a human. He or she will explain why the ant species should be protected or have its population controlled. The student must justify his or her position with facts taken from research.

C. Communication

Persuasive letters should be edited, finalized, and published in a classroom pamphlet for others to read. Podcasts can be published on a podcast hosting site or classroom website.

D. A completed project consists of:

  1. A model of an ant’s life cycle
  2. An ant research graphic organizer
  3. A Works Cited page
  4. A persuasive letter or recorded podcast justifying why the ant species should be protected or have its population controlled
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