Animals on the School Lawn



One of many animals in the school lawn is the ant.  Where can you find a colony of ants on the school lawn?

Ant Colony Selection and Observation:

Select one ant colony to watch.  Briefly describe the type of ant in your colony.

Find out as much as you can about the ant group you are watching.

Try to answer these questions: 

1) Do ants from your colony follow routes from their home to other places? (To help you follow an ant you may want to place a tiny bit of chalk or flour on the back of the ant to see where it goes).

2) If your ants have specific routes, where do they lead?

3) Does your colony seem to mix with ants of other colonies?

4) Does the ant you are watching come out of one ant hole opening and enter others?

How many openings in the ground do you think lead to your colony? 

5) Do you see ants with missing parts?              (Legs, antennae).  If so, how do you think they may have lost the parts?

6) What do the ants in your colony eat?      How did you find this out?

7) Place different types of food in small pieces (2 X 2 X 5 mm) near the colony.  Do the ants seem to pass on information about this food to others?  Test the list below and select two other substances to test.

A) Cheese (type)         Time it took for ants to locate the food:

Action of the ants:                                      

B) Bread (type)          Time:                              

Action of the ants:                                      

C) 40-50 grains of sugar or 1/4 sugar lump Time:                               

Action of the ants:                                      

D) Chocolate (Without nuts)   Time:

Action of the ants:                                      

E) Dead insect (type)      Time:            

Action of the ants:                                      

F) Meat (ground)         Time:                

Action of the ants:

Try some of your own:

G) ____________________  Time:

Action of the ants:

H) ____________________  Time:

Action of the ants:

What do you think is the favorite food of the ants in your colony?

Ants in the Rain:

Do ants have problems in bad weather?  Produce a rain storm over an ant hill by the use of a watering can.  Pour the water from the can over the ant hole opening to be equal to about 1/2 inch of rain which falls in some storms.  What is the reaction of the ants?

What happens to the ant hill?

How long does it take the ants to get over the effects of the "rain storm"?

Describe the shape of the opening of the colony.  Does it protect against flooding?              How?

Do ants build their colonies where there are permanent run off channels in the lawn or playground areas?

Life History of Ants:

1.  Select one ant colony (large and active) in an area of the school grounds where it is not likely to be disturbed.  Place a flat stone or slate over the colony.  Leave the stone in place for a week or more.  Be ready to make your observations quickly when you raise the stone.  You may want to store some of the "findings" in glass containers for further study.  When you remove the rock what do you see?  How do you explain this?

2.  Select one or two ant hills and with a shovel or trowel, open them with care.  How far down does the colony go? Can you find breeding chambers? Do you find ants of various kinds?  (This may depend on the time of year.  Winged males are seen only for a very short time.  You may be lucky enough to catch a queen ant.  If you do, you could try to establish an artificial colony in a large jar.  What would you need to set up the colony?

How would the ants get water?

3.  Look around the school lawn and see how many type of ant colonies you can find.  How do the ants vary in color and in size?

On a wall or on the lawn you will often see a giant black ant. These ants live in small colonies in wood and are called carpenter ants.  Follow a carpenter ant to its home which may be a wooden gutter or a dead tree.  Under rocks or in dead wood you may find a colony of "white ants" which are not ants at all but termites.  The termite eats wood and is a problem in homes where it often causes extensive damage to the wood.  Are there termite in your area?  Look in the Yellow Pages of your phone book and see if the exterminators advertise for termite control.  Where might you look for termites in your home?

4.  Select several ants from a different colony which are 50-100 feet away but the same size and color as your colony.  Place several "foreign" ants in a container and liberate them at the opening of your colony.  What happens?

Select several ants from a colony 50-100 feet away which are different in size or color or both.  Place these foreign ants at the opening of your colony.  What happens?


Visit the school grounds on a day when there is a mist or light    dew.  How many spider webs do you find?   What types of webs do you find?  Draw or sketch one below:

How do spiders benefit man?

Catch insects such as flies and throw them into the web.  When an     insect is caught in the web, what does the spider do?

Your teacher may help you set up a home for a spider in a two liter bottle. Make sure it is clean and dry.  Place a stick with several small branches (no leaves) in the jar and add a spider.Wait for the spider to weave a web and then add several small insects such as grasshopper, fly, or moth.  You will be able to watch your "pet" in the classroom.

With the aid of a spider identification book try to find out the kind of spider you have.  What does your spider like to eat?  What does your spider do with extra food?

How do spiders seem to eat?

How can spiders walk on webs while insects get caught in the web strands?

If you keep you spider for some period of time is there any evidence that it is growing larger?

If you put a smaller spider in with your larger one, what happens?

How do spiders survive the winter?

After you have observed the spider let your "pet" go in its natural habitat so that it can go on catching insects.

Mammals on the Lawn:

Animals with backbones and hair are called mammals.  You will notice  various signs of these animals such as tufts of fur, animal droppings or footprints on the lawn.  Some mammals come out only at night.   What evidence do you have of their presence?

Make a list of the mammals on the lawn or around the school, the evidence you noticed and the effect of this animal on the ecology of the areas:

     Mammal            Evidence(s)      Affect on the lawn or other organisms in the lawn











Birds on and over the Lawn:

Birds have feathers which distinguish them from mammals.  Make a list of birds you see on the lawn during the school day.  What do these birds eat?  Can you learn to identify the call of some of the birds?  Birds' beaks and feet differ.  How do these differences affect the way a bird walks, clings to trees and eats?

      List of Birds              Food              Special Adaptation(s)











The Earthworm:

Each of you was asked to bring in a live earthworm in its normal     environment.  What is the proper environment for an earthworm?

Where did you go to look for earthworms?  Why were worms found       there?

On the lawn of the school look between the grass plants.  Do you     see any evidence that worms are in the lawn?

What do earthworms eat?

When it rains heavily we often find worms on the ground or on the    sidewalks.  Why are they found above the ground?

What animals eat earthworms?

What animals use earthworms in other ways?

If you have earthworms in your lawn at school are they beneficial (helpful) or harmful?                       How do they harm or help the lawn?

What happens to worms when they are cut in half?

Observation of a Live Worm:

Remove the worm from the container.  Place it in a pan provided on a piece of paper moistened with water.  (You may gently remove the soil from the worm to see it more clearly).  Which is the front end of the worm?

Can the earthworm go backwards?

Touch the underside of the worm.  What do you feel?

What is the purpose of these little bristles (setae)?

How does the worm move?

The body of the worm has rings all along the body which are called

segments.  How many segments does you worm have?                Do worms say quiet while you count their segments?  How could you slow them down?  (Ask your teacher).  Do the worms of other students all have the same number of segments?

Do you think you could tell the age of the worm by the number of segments it has?

Do humans have segmentation?

If humans have segmentation, where do the show it?

What other animals have segmentation besides the earthworm?

Along the upper surface of the worm you will see a dark line which is a blood vessel.  In young or small worms you can see the blood moving in the vessel.

Animals react to various objects in their environment.  How does your earthworm respond to the following things?

                  Stimulus                           Response

      Pin touch anterior end

      Pin touch posterior end

      Pin touch on sides

      Strong light (anterior end)

      Strong light (posterior end)

      Vibration (tap side of pan)

      Vibrating tuning fork

      Vibration of wood pounded into ground outdoors

      Response to sugar (wash off immediately)

      Response to salt (wash off immediately)

      Light electric shock

      Vinegar (wash off immediately)

      Ice cube

      Heat from warm metal instrument

Small Animals in the Soil:

Set up a "Berlese funnel" with soil or leaf mold in the funnel.  With a goose neck lamp dry out the soil or leaf mold so that the animals drop into the water below.  Identify the animals you see with the aid of a magnifying glass or dissecting microscope if it is available.

Small worms with segments are annelids; small worms which wiggle from side to side are nematode worms; any animal with six legs is an insect or insect larvae; animals with eight legs are spiders or mites.  How many of these animals do you find?

        Animal              Observed          Number Seen

Annelid worms

Nematode worms

Insects or larvae

Spiders or mites


Indicate the type of soil, location of soil, moisture (wet, dry) and other factors which might influence the small animal population.

Lawn Animals in Winter:

When a light wet snow is on the ground observe the tracks made in it by animals.  What types of animals made the footprints?  Draw the footprint and try to identify the bird or mammal which made the track.

           Footprint                      Animal