What my children taught me about ants and other invertebrates.

The boys gave their presentations on Ants and Invertebrates last night.
These stem from the Second Great Lesson, which is basically the story of life.
Middly talked about ants, mainly, I think, because he wanted to use the Ant Farm he got for Christmas.

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Actually, the Ant Farm was a bit tricky. We ended up ordering ants online, it is still too cold to catch any up here. Who knew ants hibernate?
Here is his talk:
“Army ants hunt centipedes. Army ants have huge mandibles to cut their food.
“Weaver ants make nests out of leaves glued by a special sticky thing. Weaver ants sew leaved together with a sticky substance.
“When an ant finds food it leaves a special scent. Ants collect food bit by bit.
“Leafcutter ants chew up leaves to make fungi grow on it.
“If an ant was as big as me, it could lift a ten ton truck.
“Army ants can melt flesh with a special chemical. Army ants can turn woods into battlefields by hunting other insects.
“Ants work in groups up to two million.
“A young queen ant has wings, but a queen ant does not have wings when it mates.”
Middly also made his own visual aid, as well. He made a jointed ant using card and split pins.

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He was rather pleased with it.

Eldest chose to talk about invertebrates. This turned out to be a very broad category. He didn’t talk about ants, because Middly was doing that, but they have both taken a great deal of interest in the Ant Farm.
Eldest did do a but of bug hunting in the garden, but none of that made it into his final talk.
Here’s what he said:
“Bugs are invertebrates. Humans are mammals and we are vertebrates. 97% of the world’s animals are invertebrates.
“Red admiral butterflies mostly eat nectar but in spring and summer they eat nettles. Red admiral butterflies live for ten months.
“All insects have six legs, but the Glanville Fritillary and its relatives use only four, the front pair are reduced and useless for walking.
“Female preying mantises normally eat the male after mating.
“The emperor dragonfly has four pairs of wings to help it move around.
“Ladybirds have bright colours to scare birds away. Ladybirds eat aphids. Ladybirds can have stripes. Ladybirds hibernate. A female lays between three and three hundred eggs depending on what type they are.
“There are over a million insects. Insects have six legs, two pairs of wings and they eat meat and plants.
“Arachnids have about one hundred thousand species. Arachnids have eight legs, no wings and eat meat, and one eats plants.
“Myriapods have about thirteen thousand species. Myriapods have seven hundred and fifty legs and no wings and centipedes eat meat and millipedes eat plants.
“Woodlice have about three thousand species. Woodlice have fourteen legs, no wings, and eat dead leaves and rotting matter.
“Segmented worms have no legs, no wings and they eat plants and rotten matter.
“Land slugs and snails have about twenty four thousand species. Land slugs and snails have no legs, no wings and eat plants and some eat meat.”

He had a demonstration too. He made a Trapdoor Spider out of pipe cleaners and tied it to a string. Then he made a fly puppet by tying a split pin to another string.

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He showed us how Trapdoor Spiders hide under sand then spring out to devour their prey. Eek!
The boys love the visual parts of their talks. They are also both able to answer a few supplementary questions now. So, they are picking up more information than they put into their talks. This method is still working well for us. I’m really enjoying it!
I thought I might share how they do their research. I have divided the process into several steps:
1) Choosing: we explore books and equipment together and talk about what interests them until the boys have settled on a topic or question they wish to explore.
2) Planning: the boys write down things they already know, questions they want to answer, ways they could find out more about their chosen topics.
3) Books: The boys use some of our own books and write down facts in their own words. We also take a trip to the library and help them select some books to use. They always make a note of what book they are using and what page they are referring to, so we can easily go back and check if something seems strange.
4) Computer: I have put some shortcuts on the desktop so the boys can play relevant games and explore educational websites. They make notes of interesting things they find out.
5) Hands on: the boys use any kits they have chosen, e.g. microscope and slides, ant farm, bug catchers. They make notes of things they find out and sometimes keep things to use as visual aids.
6) Trip: we arrange a themed trip, or several trips, to keep enthusiasm up, e.g. we’ve been to the Natural History Museum and the Sedgwick Museum and a wildlife park for this Great Lesson.
7) Planning the talk: I’ve shown the boys how to go through their notes & group their facts by theme. They underline facts that go together with the same coloured pencil. Then they write their talk, grouping similar facts together and deciding the best order to use.
8) Giving the talk! Afterwards we have a brief chat about what went well and what they might like to try next time.

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