Lesson plan

Geography & Animals: Amazon Rainforest Leafcutter Ants

Students will love learning about a tiny (yet very interesting!) animal in this rainforest-inspired lesson plan focusing on ants.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to identify the habitat and characteristics of the leafcutter ant.

(5 minutes)
  • Introduce the lesson by displaying a map of the world and pointing out each of the seven continents. Explain that while there are many countries in the world, there are only seven continents. A continent is a large area of land. Ask students if they know which continent they live in.
  • Explain that we live in North America (or insert your continent here) and that today we will be learning about a special animal found in the continent of South America. Tell students that there is a very large area in South America that contains the Amazon Rainforest, which is home to more than half of the creatures on the planet.
  • Tell students that today they will be learning all about a very small animal that calls the Amazon Rainforest home: the leafcutter ant.
(10 minutes)
  • Read aloud the book Leafcutter Ants by Jo Windsor, pausing as you read to define unknown or unfamiliar words or phrases.
  • Conduct a whole class discussion about facts and details about leafcutter ants from the text. Also, ask students to think about what they learned about leafcutter ants.
(5 minutes)
  • Tell students to think about what makes the leafcutter ant unique. Answers might include: They are farmers and grow their own food (a special kind of fungus) by collecting leaves to use as a kind of compost (rotting leaves turn into dirt) for the fungus to grow. They live in huge colonies on the forest floor. Different ants have different jobs. Because the ants all have different jobs, they might look different (big, small, wings, etc).
  • Review the anatomy of the ant (head, abdomen, thorax, antennae, and 5 eyes) and compare the anatomy to that of ants the students might have seen while playing outside.
  • If there is time, share the the clip of Leafcutter Ants with the students.
(20 minutes)
  • Students will now participate in collaborative conversations with their peers. Break the class into two working groups and explain that students will work on two different projects to explore topics related to Leafcutter Ants.
  • One group will begin by finishing an informational page about the leafcutter ant. Pass out the All About Leafcutter Ants worksheets. Allow them to share their answers with each other and discuss the reasons for their choices with their peers.
  • The second group will begin by using the leaf templates. They should begin by decorating and cutting out their leaves. When they finish their leaves, invite them to stamp their thumbs using the stamp pad and create their own leafcutter ant bodies (3 thumb prints next to each other) on a piece of white paper. After stamping, have the students draw in antennae and eyes using black markers. Then have them glue a leaf above their ant, as if the ant is carrying the leaf back to the colony. Allow group memebers to share their creations with partners.
  • Mid-way through, have both groups switch projects.


  • Pair students who might need additional support together to work on their All About the Leafcutter Ant pages. You can also gather students together to read the passage aloud with teacher support.


  • For advanced students or those who finish early, pass out lined paper and invite them to create their own informational page about the leafcutter ant.
  • Encourage them to include additional information from the All About the Leafcutter Ant worksheet.
(5 minutes)
  • To assess student understanding, walk around and informally ask them about the leafcutter ants’ habitat, diet, and body parts.
  • Listen to student discussions and assess their ability to work together and share their ideas in conversations with peers.
  • Collect student worksheets after the lesson and check that students were able to accurately fill in the missing information.
(5 minutes)
  • Gather students together for the close of the lesson and briefly review the unique life of the leafcutter ant.
  • Allow students to share their work with the whole class and to ask questions as needed.
  • Close the lesson by displaying the leafcutter ant artwork created by the students.

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