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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #395591

Research Project: Management of Fire Ants and Other Invasive Ants

Location: Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research

Title: Are ants good organisms to teach elementary students about invasive species in Florida

item ZOLLOTA, SARA - University Of Florida
item PEREZ, PATRICIA - University Of Florida
item ALLEN, JENA - University Of Florida
item ARGENTI, TORI - University Of Florida
item Read, Quentin
item Ascunce, Marina

Submitted to: Insects
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/5/2023
Publication Date: 1/24/2023
Citation: Zollota, S., Perez, P., Allen, J., Argenti, T., Read, Q.D., Ascunce, M.S. 2023. Are ants good organisms to teach elementary students about invasive species in Florida. Insects. 14(2): 118.

Interpretive Summary: This outreach project was a way for young students to learn about our natural environment, organisms that live in it, and how invasive species can have detrimental effects on it. We used ants as they are charismatic and easy-to-find organisms. Through educational activities and learning stations students had the chance to learn about multiple ant species, native and invasive, and participate in hands-on activities to explore a science field that is usually not touched on in a typical classroom setting. By using active learning approaches, we can engage kids in learning how ants live, their interactions with other species, explain the difference between invasive and native species, and why native ants are beneficial to the environment.

Technical Abstract: This studies purpose is to evaluate the effectiveness of our outreach program “ImportANTs of Ants” in communicating scientific topics to children, sparking an interest in environmental protection and science. The Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) impacts Florida and much of the Southeast USA; causing the country and ecosystem a great deal of damage though economic, health, and environmental costs. Thus, the program focuses on the dynamic interplay of the ecosystem with native/invasive species. Through the use of various active learning approaches including presentations, handouts, crafts, and live colonies, we evaluate the effectiveness of the material, the content learned by the children, their overall attitudes towards the topics, and future interests in research and environmental preservation. Approximately 400 students from three different schools, spanning 4 grade levels, were assessed using short anonymous surveys. We expect an increase in student knowledge about native/invasive species and interest in environmental protection, research and science.