Ant Colonies: The Power of Cooperation

Janet MacNeil
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



In this lesson, students gather evidence from multiple sources to construct an argument that living in groups helps ants survive. They do this by synthesizing information from direct observation of live ants, videos of ants, and text resources. The lesson includes multiple opportunities for science talk, including scaffolding to help students make meaning from their observations. Additional lessons about animal groups may be found on the author's website.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

3-LS2-1 Construct an argument that some animals form groups that help members survive.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson addresses the performance expectation by providing multiple opportunities for students to collect evidence to support the argument that some animals form groups to help members survive.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The lesson includes scaffolds (science talk as a rehearsal for writing, shared evidence collection, sentence frames, word banks) to help young students construct a scientific argument.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
To address the core idea that groups vary in size, it would be helpful to gather evidence about other species that form significantly smaller groups.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
To better meet this crosscutting concept students could describe in their science notebooks their reasoning how one ant cannot do what two or more ants can do. Students who have little experience with systems thinking may require a more extensive introduction than is written in the lesson. The concept could be extended by asking students to connect ant systems with other systems. How are ants a part of the ecosystem in which they live? How would changes to the ant population affect the ecosystem?

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson was written explicitly to address the three dimensions of NGSS. In addition, there are many connections to Common Core ELA standards. This lesson includes opportunities for students to gather evidence from multiple sources to construct an argument that working in groups helps animals survive.

  • Instructional Supports: The focus on science talk throughout the lesson helps students to make meaning of their data. The lesson includes writing scaffolds, such as sentence frames and word banks. The lesson does not include explicit supports to provide additional challenge to students, but the open-ended nature of the lesson allows students to dig deeper into the topic and extend their writing as they are able. There are also ideas for extensions of the lesson. The optional presentation assessment for Activity 5 might be used to replace the writing task for learners that struggle with writing. Learning supports include a link to a document containing strategies for addressing the needs of struggling students.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson includes multiple opportunities for assessment, including notebook entries before and after studying ant behavior, and student/teacher interactions throughout the lesson. A rubric is provided for assessing the students’ written arguments.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.