Nature-Based Middle School Science {Plus a DIY Ant Farm}

nature based middle school science DIY ant farm

I like to be prepared. I like to make lists, plan, organize, prioritize and (hopefully) make things happen on time, with the best possible outcome. Our homeschool and the curriculum we use is no exception. Unfortunately, this has lead to my demise on several occasions. With four school-age children (preschool to high school), another one due in September, a husband with an unpredictable work schedule, two dogs, two rabbits and two chickens… things don’t always work out the when I plan or the way I plan for that matter. I am so thankful to serve an Almighty God whose timing and method is always perfect.

He has once again shown Himself and His Word to be true.

My oldest daughter, Julia, will be starting 6th grade in the fall. I have every subject planned and (pencil) scheduled out for the school year for every child, except her science. I have struggled with which science to do with her for months. I knew I wanted to something nature based with lots of hands on activities but until earlier this week, I’d been unable to find anything that fit the bill. Being an eclectic homeschool anyway, I was nearing the point of pulling something together myself. But of course that meant lots more work than I really wanted to put into it. We have lots of nature/science books but having to schedule which ones to read when was just something I didn’t want to do.

In one of my many searches, I came across Janice Van Cleave. From her website:

“Janice VanCleave’s hands-on, easy-to-do projects are perfect for any learning style. Whether you’re supplementing your science curriculum with direct experience, offering fun projects and activities as extra enrichment, or looking for a range of options you can offer your children as they follow their own interests, the Janice VanCleave books are an ideal way to help your children learn.”
I checked this one out from the library and after reading through it and seeing the simple (excellent) experiments and short lessons (which fits great with our Charlotte Mason-esque style), I decided I had to purchase it. It’s currently retailing on Amazon for $14.35 but I scored one on Ebay for $1.99 with FREE shipping!! Woo-hoo!!! This year we will be working our way through the Ecology, Biology, Chemistry and Astronomy books. Because we won’t be able to do every experiment, everyday, I plan to supplement those days with books like  Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study, Naming Living Things by Sarah Riedman (an excellent living nature book), Jack’s Insects by Edmund Selous, Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History by Bill Laws and any other book we find along the way.

I have to admit that I am super eager to get going in this series, so I thought we could do one of the first experiments in the book… a DIY Ant Farm.

DIY ant farm
What you need:
  • 2 cups potting soil
  • mason jar
  • spoon or shovel
  • cotton ball moistened with tap water
  • apple wedge
  • 6×6 square of old stockings
  • rubber band (I used the ring from the jar instead of the rubber band)
  • scissors
  • black construction paper
  • tape
1. Poor your soil into the jar


2. Locate your ant hill. This is our little flower garden by the front door.
We also happen to have a resident ant colony.


3. Stir up the ant hill and watch them scatter. Then scoop up 15-30 ants in the jar.
I will confess, I did not count them. Be sure to brush off any rogue ants on the outside of the jar, and put the lid on while you return to the rest of your supplies.
4. Drop in your moistened cotton ball and apple.


5. Secure your stockings to the top with either a ring or rubber band.
6. Tape the construction paper around the jar. The paper tube should be about 2 inches higher than the soil.

 And there you have it- your own DIY ant farm!!

Several times a day, slide the tube off the jar and observe the contents. When first placed in the jar, the ants frantically ran around, but then they settled down.
Some began digging almost immediately, while others continued to explore the surface of the soil.
By the end of the week, clearly defined tunnels are visible in the soil and small ant hills dot the surface. Neat, huh?
This is going to be a great series! I’ll be sure to share more of our fun and easy experiments later during the school year!




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Clip Art by Melon Headz
Poppins Book Nook Great Outdoors Bundle Giveaway! (this giveaway is now closed)

Every month the Poppins Book Nook group will be offering readers a chance to win a brand new storybook or product that ties in with our theme for the month. This month one lucky entrant will win a copy of the classic storybook Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping as no one brings that certain flair and fun to the great outdoors like Amelia Bedelia. The winner will also win an Uncle Milton Nat Geo Starry Night Lantern so whether you live in the countryside or in the city your child can experience some of the great outdoors while reading your storybook.

Entrants must be 18 years or older and reside in a country that receives U.S. Postal mail. This giveaway is brought to you by the company Enchanted Homeschooling Mom who is owner and founder of the Poppins Book Nook. By entering this giveaway you are also acknowledging that you have read and agree to all of the Rafflecopter terms & conditions as well as Enchanted Homeschooling Mom’s disclosures found here.  Just enter the Rafflecopter below to win:

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