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Ants at the Picnic Unit Study

Updated on March 26, 2015

Leaf Cutter Ants

 Leaf-Cutting Ants
Leaf-Cutting Ants | Source

Ants at the Picnic

Summer is here and we are all set to go on a picnic. Will any ants join us? We take out the basket and red checkered tablecloth and head outdoors for a fun filled picnic lunch where the ants help us to learn about science, math, social studies and much more.

While we eat our picnic lunch we might discuss the characteristics of ants to discover whether or not they are insects. We might notice ants crawling across the tablecloth. Later on we will be drawing ants, counting ants, and even singing about ants.

Come on a picnic of learning with us. Come to the Ant's Picnic...


All about Ants Illustration
All about Ants Illustration | Source

All about Ants

We begin our unit study looking at the poster made back in 1917. It shows ants from many different aspects. We see them above ground, underground and through their various stages of life.

We see how ants travel in lines and how they can cross streams of water. We see them carrying leaves.

There are ants for counting as well.

Finally notice the word wall at the bottom of this poster. These well chosen words will help the children spell words needed to write about their observations or for their creative writing.

Ant Book

Write your own Ant Book
Write your own Ant Book | Source

Reading about Ants

Read about ants, identify the ants you find as you observe your kitchen and back yard. What kind of ant is this?

The following books about ants were especially interesting to my children when we were learning about ants:

  • The Life and Times of the Ant
  • Ant Cities (Lets Read and Find Out Books)
  • Ants of North America: A Guide to the Genera

When I taught in a classroom, I often started by reading books written by children in past years. Children love creating leaf shaped books to share their new knowledge of these industrious creatures.

Weave a Placemat for the Ant's Picnic

Making a Woven Mat

Today we will make math mats for our Ant's Picnic Unit Study.We will be using these mats for counting, addition and subtraction problems related to our theme.

  • Pass out red sheets of construction paper
  • Each child needs a ruler, a pencil and scissors

Teach the children how to measure lines lengthwise across the red sheet of paper:

  • Fold the paper in half (fractions and symmetry)
  • Using the ruler measure and place dots at one inch intervals all along the folded side
  • Place your paper so that the fold is to your right
  • Place your ruler along the left side holding it exactly along the edge.
  • Draw a line using the ruler as a guide.

The thickness of the ruler will give you the space needed to stop cutting in order to hold in the weaving.

  • Use the ruler to make dots at one inch intervals along the side of the line you just drew.
  • Turn the paper 45 degrees (geometry)
  • Carefully use your ruler as a guide to match up the dots and draw lines at one inch intervals from top to bottom
  • Cut each line from the folded side to the line you drew down the opposite side.

Now pass out pieces of white construction paper strips

  • Each strip should be one inch wide cut along the short side

Teach the children how to weave the strips through the red paper.

  • After each strip ask the children to stop and show you so that each strip is done correctly

Gather the placemats and laminate them for math mat activities.

NOTE: My children loved this activity so much that I made an art center for them so that could make their own placemats during center time. They made placemats for the play kitchen and later on began teaching math activities to their dolls.

Ants at the Picnic Book

Ants at the Picnic
Ants at the Picnic | Source

Picnic Ants Mathmats - Skip Counting the Ants by 10's

Read the story of Ants at the Picnic and then pull out a large quantity of plastic ants.

Children take a handful of plastic ants and place them in groups of tens on the red checkered placemat, then record the number of ants on their recording sheet.

  • You can make plates from colored construction paper circles that can hold ten ants each.
  • Make a spoon with ten dots down the handle.

Each time they fill the spoon they move the ants from the spoon to a plate.

Count the ants on the plates by 10's and the remaining ants on the spoon by ones. How many ants came to the picnic?

Plastic Ants

Package of 144 Plastic Picnic Ants
Package of 144 Plastic Picnic Ants | Source

Ants at the Picnic Math Activity - Skip Counting the Ants by 10's

The ants are coming to the picnic in groups of tens. Look for the ants on each page. Are there actually 10 on each page? Practice skip counting by 10's as page after page the ants come join us at the picnic.

After reading the book, show the children how to make their own checked place mats by weaving strips of white construction paper into a red piece of construction paper. Then use plastic ants to make groups of ten ants each to practice skip counting by 10's.

The Ants go Marching with Lyrics

Arrays of Ants

  • Teach the children the ant marching song and then talk about what it means to create a 2X2, 3X3, 4X4 etc array.
  • Using your mathmats and ants, place ants, one ant per square to show these arrays.
  • Notice how they form perfect squares.
  • Count the number of ants in each array.
  • Point out that they are showing multiplication facts.
  • Write the multiplication facts on the board after making each array.

Children can practice learning the square multiplication facts during center time by creating arrays and writing down the number of ants for each array they create.

Anatomy of an Ant

The Parts of an Ant
The Parts of an Ant | Source

Anatomy of an Ant

For our morning meeting question and graph I asked the children: How many body parts does an ant have?

I had them use post-it notes so that we could rearrange their answers numerically.

Most of us thought that they had three body parts but were surprised to find that they actually have four.

We posted the above chart and discussed the various parts and postulated as to how an ant could use these parts. What advantages would these parts have over similar parts on our own bodies.

How to Draw an Ant

Drawing an Ant


  • Black permanent marker
  • Computer paper
  • Pastels

By slowly drawing step by step the children learn how to draw ants.

Ant Eggs

Ant Nests and Eggs
Ant Nests and Eggs | Source

Ant Nest

A nest of ant eggs was found behind a vertical paving slab.

  • Notice the tunnels where the adult ants can travel back and forth to care for the eggs.
  • Can you see any adult ants? Why or why not?
  • Did you know that ants are oviparous? (egg layers)

You might want to setup and watch as ants create tunnels in an ant farm

Trillium Magnet


Ants and Trillumns

Trillium seeds take 6 - 8 years to grow and blossom. The seeds are distributed by ants who gather the fruits and later deposit the seeds in their compost bins. The ant garbage dumps form just the right nutrients for the Trillium Seedlings to grow in. Thanks to ants, Trilliums are able to spread up to 30 feet from the parent plant.

Picnic Ants

Ant Picnic
Ant Picnic | Source

Will you come to the Ant's Picnic? - Would your children like to learn with an Ant's Picnic theme?

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    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      Haha, I prefer that the ants have their own picnic and away from mine. But I do think you've got some neat lesson plans. : )

    • profile image

      dellgirl 4 years ago

      You've certainly created a delightful lens. I like what you've done here. Thank you for sharing this, its really interesting.

    • profile image

      NC Shepherd 5 years ago

      I never knew that about ants and trilliums. Interesting.

    • IntoMars LM profile image

      IntoMars LM 5 years ago

      This is really a great lense. Good job!

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 5 years ago

      the ant and bee game looks like fun

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      Very nice lens on Ant, I learn something new today. Thanks!

    • profile image

      mahasson 6 years ago

      Thanks for creating such a useful lens!

    • profile image

      heatherashton22 6 years ago

      This is a great resource. Thanks for posting!

    • profile image

      mahasson 6 years ago

      This is a great teaching resource. Thanks for making this lens!

    • profile image

      Donnette Davis 6 years ago from South Africa

      Lovely unit study... thank you

    • akumar46 lm profile image

      akumar46 lm 6 years ago

      Certainly children enjoy and learn from Ant's Picnic Theme.Its great to learn through fun activities.