Any time I see soil spewing out the sides of my green irrigation port, I sigh and dare not open the lid. The first few time I encountered this it was gophers tunneling up to grab a quick drink, nibble through a wire, then bury into oblivion what was left of the nozzles. This time, upon investigating the misplaced soil I found that ants were the culprits. I sighed, but then took note, and evolved the situation into a good lesson!
The librarian at Canalino is awesome and dug up a number of ant books looking at the life cycle. With the younger kids (1st grade) we recalled the life cycle of a butterfly and then introduced the life cycle of an ant. The books had lots of photos of eggs, larva, pupa & adults. We talked about the stages, and I played a little game having them shout out which stage it was after I called the number.
Me: “2nd stage”
I then cautioned that they could only look with their eyes and not with their hands and we went to explore the colony. We saw numerous adults carrying stages of eggs, larva & pupa. The kids all wanted me to dig and find the queen (every class was obsessed with finding the queen). I took a shovel and moved the soil around a little so they could see different stages. They were all totally glued to it!
With older classes (3rd grade) we looked at the different species of ants (Carpenter, Fire, Leaf Cutter) and different roles (farmer leaf cutters, aphid herders, slave keepers, workers, soldiers, etc.) It was really comprehensive and I could hardly tear the kids away from the books at the end of the lesson .
Best Part? After the little “disturbance” we caused, the ants left to build a new colony and I got to fix the irrigation. A win-win!