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A Book to Get Kids Outdoors and Learning about Science

When most people think of ants, they think of irritating pests that invade kitchens and make picnics a lot less fun. Really, what else is there to know? Well, apparently there’s a great deal, and almost all of us have spent too much of our lives under-valuing the incredible little critters that we often step on without a second thought. Time to think again.

We are pleased to offer a fresh new version of Amazing Ants, a book for both students and their teachers or parents by Dr. W. Barkley Butler. The book is part textbook, part research notebook, and it introduces readers to ants in a way that reveals their immense value as a venue through which students can learn the scientific process. Ants live fascinating, complex lives and exhibit a variety of behaviors, and these characteristics, along with their prevalence throughout the country (and the world), make them an easy subject to study. Students can conduct simple experiments that will likely yield seemingly simple results, but Dr. Butler points out that those results are often anything but simple; careful analysis reveals the magnificent truth about science: there is always more to learn, more to explore, more to understand, and more to do. Every result is simply a stepping stone to new questions. The curious will never run out of new things to be curious about, even when the subject is a tiny bug that everyone has seen gazillions of times and hardly notices anymore at all.

The greatest benefit that students will derive from this book is that it doesn’t just teach them about ants. In fact, it doesn’t offer much information about ants per se. Instead, it asks students to perform experiments to answer questions about ants so that the information is theirs, and they own it, and they have come to it authentically. No, the true importance of the book is that it shows kids how to go about learning to do science in ways that they can apply to just about any branch of science, and it includes not just the scientific process but also critical elements within it and that stem from it, such as what to do when the results of experiments are not what you expected, how to report your results, and the importance of intellectual and academic honesty. Students will come away from this book far richer in their understanding of science than just what ant facts they learn along the way.

Amazing Ants is for the students themselves (kids in middle school, high school, and even college will find it appropriate for them, neither over their heads nor dumbed down), but it also includes an instructor section in the back with three lessons for entire classes of students, which makes it a good resource for teachers and homeschool co-op instructors. Parents as well will be able to use it with homeschoolers and younger children, as most of the lessons are easily adaptable for even the youngest children who have exhibited an interest in nature and its workings. Additionally, there are instructions in the appendix for building and keeping ant colonies so you can continue the study all year long.

Don’t let the summer pass by without letting your child investigate and appreciate the fascinating world of Amazing Ants!


(There’s a wonderful review of this book on our website: click here to read it. Disclaimer: The review was written by the author’s daughter, who happens to be a homeschooling mother. Is it biased? Probably. But is it an accurate accounting of the book nonetheless? We absolutely think so. Be sure to check it out for more information about the book.)

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