Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Look out! Here come the Zombies!!!!

Zombie Fire Ants, that is.  Got your attention, though, didn't I?

I was asked to review a unit study for This Old Schoolhouse and this is the one they chose for me...zombie fire ants.  Do I look like a Charlotte Mason, nature lovin' momma? Do they not know me at all?  (What?  They don't?  Oh, okay.) Hmm, how does this unit go with the beautiful butterflies that we are currently studying?  It totally doesn't, but we took a little butterfly break and talked about, yes, zombie fire ants.  They do really exist.  Isn't God's creation amazing?  Whodathunkit?

Zombie Fire Ants is part of The Curiosity Files series of unit studies from TOS  There are currently nine titles available in the series and they are sold as a bundle pack or individually (I noticed that a few are on sale for $1!). Professor Ana Lyze and her team of scientific spies delve into some of the oddities of the scientific world - dung beetles, red tides, cicada killing wasps - you get the gist.  Weird stuff.  Gross stuff. Stuff kids think is cool.

Are you curious about what are zombie fire ants?  Did you know that there are 12,500 known species of ants (and an estimated 10,000 more not yet classified)?  I didn't.  I thought there were two:  the mean, biting red ones and the black ones that are being lured into the ant hotels at the entrance of my front door, but nay, there are many, many more.  Red fire ants (or red imported fire ants - RIFA - as they are also referred to) are not indigenous to the US.  They were stowaways in shipments from South America to Alabama in the 1930's.  From there they have spread through southern states and have started migrating up the eastern seaboard.  In an effort to get the population under control (without using pesticides or chemicals), it was discovered that there is a God given predator of the red fire ant in South America - the phorid fly.  Be warned, this is where it gets gross.  The phorid fly will stalk it's victim (Not sure how the ant is chosen. Maybe it's born with "Pick Me!" on it's back - that's under investigation.) and when the time is right, it will lay it's egg inside the ant. At this point, the ant isn't sure what is going on, but the fly larva will work its way to the ant's head to feast on it's brain, turning the ant into a zombie. The zombie fire ant will then wander around until it's head falls off and out pops the baby fly to begin the circle of life again.

The unit study is all inclusive and has a bunch of suggested activities, both at lower and higher levels.  According to the TOS site, each unit is 80-100 pages long and includes:

  • Bible study and Bible memory applications
  • Science, math, history and geography investigations
  • Literature and suggested book list
  • Writing, spelling, vocabulary  and copywork activities
  • Discussion questions, special projects & experiments
  • Art, crafts, drawing and coloring pages 
  • Lapbook/notebook pages and helpful lapbooking links
  • Special needs, hands-on discoveries
  • Art, crafts, drawing and coloring pages 
  • Internet resources, video links and complete answer key
All in all, we enjoyed the unit. For our Kindergarten level, the activities weren't really feasible (with the exception of creating an ant farm (I'm trying to get rid of the ones coming in my house.  I'm not going to voluntarily carry some in at this time.), snack activities, etc.), but we definitely learned things we did not know about the fire ant.  I would recommend that other homeschoolers give these a try.  They will be something we add to our resources in a couple years.  

Man, I just know I'm going to be looking for the "zombies" every time I go outside now. 

Julianna's artistic interpretation of a zombie fire ant


    Jessica said...

    What?!?! Never heard of them. Very interesting...and gross!

    Tiff said...

    Wow! Ok, you guys may think its gross but I think it's AWESOME! I sort of want to see a You Tube of the head popping off and the fly coming out. Is that weird?

    wvugrads said...

    Lol! No, Tiff, I expected you to be all over it! :)

    Kimberly said...

    Enjoyed your review and learning about zombie fire ants. After 20 years in the South, I know plenty about fire ants. But I honestly can say that I NEVER heard about zombie ones.