Capture Some of the Magic in the World with Ant Farms and Microscopes

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I have a confession to make: I love ant farms. I love them so much that one of my readers bought me an ant farm to cheer me up shortly after I lost my funding and was experiencing a long run of bad luck in my job search -- the financial stress and loss of self esteem were almost unbearable. But even though I am an adult (well, I'm told I look like an adult), I found hours of joy watching "my ants." But imagine how eye-opening an ant farm would be for a bunch of impoverished second-graders who have never seen or experienced how these fascinating little insects live? As if that is not enough, how about adding a microscope and a set of prepared slides to the package? By the time I was in second grade, I had only seen a friend's ant farm but I had never looked through a microscope -- which was another transformative experience for me that ultimately led me to pursue my bachelor's degree in Microbiology. But I was a country kid with more opportunity to experience nature than most kids have now. This classroom project might provide the only opportunity that these impoverished city kids might ever have to look through a microscope or to watch an ant farm community in action.

I chose each DonorsChoose project in my "Biology is Life" Challenge because I could personally relate to it. Funding each project is very important to me because I can see how these experiences influenced my life and I want to share those experiences with kids who might never have this chance otherwise. Poor kids. Hungry kids. City kids. I want them to have their imaginations captured and held by some of the magic that exists in this world. So let's give these kids some magic! Let's give these kids a different perspective! Let's give these kids ANTS! And let's really open these kids' eyes with a microscope!

The teacher for the Budding Scientists project writes;

My students are from a very high poverty school, 97% receive free/reduced lunch. These children don't have the opportunity to visit museums, zoos, and aquariums like most other children. So, all the science they experience is from a book - not interesting or "hands-on".

In second grade we learn about life cycles and I feel that by having the opportunity to actually see an ant farm at work and look through a microscope at slides of things they have never seen before, that will help spark that flame for wanting to know more about all of these subjects. Last year my students watched caterpillars change into butterflies and those students are still talking about the process and they all wrote about it in their science notebooks. With your help my science center can be more engaging this year and help these inner city students witness the wonders of nature.

We read about an ant colony in our reading book, however the children have never actually seen one and the story doesn't connect with the students. With your help they can read about an ant colony and observe one all year. The microscope and slides will help make science so much more interesting to my class of budding scientists! These children all have potential, they just need encouragement and more real life exposure to the materials.

By funding this project you WILL make a difference in the lives of 24 socio-economically disadvantaged youth. These children need all the encouragement that they can get. Many are first generation Americans and over half of my class only speaks English at school. So, donate whatever you can and help me teach these children! They need extra attention so that they will be prepared and ready for high school and college. I know that you care and I thank you for your support.

This project is halfway funded by Duke Energy, so all we have to do is donate matching funds: a mere $174 to share this experience with 24 kids. Further, just as was true for me when one of my readers purchased an ant farm for me, knowing this was a gift from strangers -- friends not yet met -- will do more to encourage these kids than you might ever know unless you've lived through a truly desperate situation. So give a gift that will keep on giving to these kids.

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A suggestion to go along with all the ant farms: Take the kids outside, and find a sidewalk that ants frequent. Disturb the dirt between the cracks by pulling up some of the grass. Place a piece of sandwich cheese near the disturbed dirt. Over the next few hours, you'll see the ants take the cheese away, piece by piece. Our kids watched this for hours.