As I mentioned in an earlier post, I designed this year’s science curriculum around Magic School Bus books and videos. We are beginning our school year this summer with insects. The first book/episode I chose is Gets Ants in its Pants, a book about Ms. Frizzle and the kids visiting an ant hill colony.
The lesson plan was designed for us to use our class time doing hands on activities together, followed by reading library books about insects and ants during their silent sustained reading time two days a week. I checkout out a small stack of books on ants and insects from our local library to fit the reading levels of my 1st, 4th and 5th grader. We are using our SSR time to read non-fiction books about whatever we are studying in science and history that week.
After we viewed the Magic School Bus episode, we filled out a KWL graphic organizer about ants and used a mason jar and some ants from the backyard to make our own ant farm, an activity from the Scholastic website. We topped the jar with aluminum foil and wrapped it in black paper, however I did not trust the ants to stay in their new habitat, so the jar was left outside. Sure enough, even though they were provided with multiple sugar water soaked cotton balls and bread with honey, the ants had been coming and going through the holes in the foil. When we checked the ants daily to provide more water and make observations, there were still plenty of ants swarming around in the jar, and two trails of ants coming and going from the jar, across our patio, out into the yard. I was concerned the foil was keeping too much heat in the jar (it IS July afterall), so we replaced it with a piece of stockings. They chewed holes in the stockings to allow traffic to resume. We got a huge kick out this. Of course, the ants were released as soon as we completed our observations.
I also included the Invent an Insect activity from California Academy of Sciences. The kids already knew the parts of an insect, but it was a great review. We had a lot of fun looking at adaptations of other insects in two large insect encyclopedias I found at our local library: Super Bug Encyclopedia and Ultimate Bug-opedia. Then the kids drew a card that described a habitat, food source, and predators. They designed insects with adaptations to survive in their habitat and presented their designs. I really enjoyed how this activity went beyond basic insect anatomy to increase their awareness of the effect of different adaptations of organisms and their ability to survive in their environment. This gave us a chance to introduce food chains, and how populations of organisms change over time as the environment changes, topics of future units.