Master of the Killer Ants
a map to locate the Mandara Mountains in Cameroon. Using a world map, have students first locate Africa and
then Cameroon (the section of land between Nigeria and Chad). Finally have them
locate the Mandara Mountains (along the Nigerian border in the northwest
section of Cameroon at about 11°N, 14°E). Organize students into five
groups. Assign each group one of the following features to research and report
on regarding Cameroon: climate and terrain (e.g., When is the rainy season? How
much arable land exists?), natural resources and land use (e.g., What types of
crops and/or livestock are commonly produced?), current environmental issues
(e.g., What diseases are prevalent?), and lifestyle issues (e.g., What is the
birth and death rate? What are the major languages and religions?), and
government and economy (e.g., What type of government rules the country? What
is the per capita income?) Have each group present a poster that includes
information it has researched.
students to list everything they know about ants. Have students brainstorm a list of all the characteristics
they know about ants. Are ants insects? What types of ants have students
encountered? What kind of interactions do humans have with ants? Where do ants
live? Are ants beneficial, harmful, or both? Ask students to come up with
questions they may have about ants and what kind of experiments they could
design to help answer those questions.
students with definitions of different species interactions. Provide students with the following definitions of
species interactions, including predator-prey (one species feeds on another
species), competitive (one organism
competes with another for resources such as food and/or living space), communalistic (one organism benefits and the other is
not harmed), mutualistic (both
organisms gain benefit from the other),
and parasitic (one organism benefits and the other is harmed). Ask students to provide examples of each type of
interaction. Make a list of their responses on the board.
the role of insects in the lives of the Mofu tribe. Copy the following table for the students. Explain that
the table lists some of the different insects mentioned in the program.
Organize students into five groups and assign each group to one of the insects
listed. As they watch the program, students should indicate on the table the
role each insect plays in the lives of the Mofu and the type of species
interaction between the Mofu and the insect. (Note that some insects have more
than one role.)
Role of insect in Mofu life
Type of interaction
Red army ant
Red velvet mite
Discuss students' findings from the program. Why are insects so important to the Mofu? What role did
each insect play in the lives of the Mofu? What are some beneficial roles of
insects in students' lives? (Some benefits include aiding in
production of fruits and vegetables by pollinating flowers, helping improve the
soil by burrowing through the surface layer, devouring remains of dead plants
and animals, and producing products such as honey or silk.)
Define the term animism. The Mofu people
in the program practice a form of animism. Explain to students that animism is
a type of religious belief that maintains that all components of the universe,
including humans, animals, plant life, rocks, and so on, contain some form of life
force, soul, or spirit. Some are seen as friendly spirits; others as
tricksters. Ask students to provide some examples of this belief from the
program. (Examples include use of the rain stones, the Mofu chief's
invoking the spirit of the mountain, the shaman's praying for the
Study a folktale or myth in the African tradition. Explain that oral traditions play an important role in
African cultures, and that African myths and folktales (like those of many
places) were designed to teach as well as entertain. Have students select an
African myth or folktale to share with the class orally (see Links & Books
for a resource with stories). Discuss the characteristics of the story: the
characters, plot, symbolism involved, ironies, allegories, and so on. What
values or moral lessons are being conveyed? What importance is placed on nature
and/or wildlife in the story? After students have presented their stories, have
them explain what, if anything, the story taught them about a particular
African culture, nature, or history. How could they apply this information to
their own lives? Are there any themes in the stories that students can relate
and contrast social animals. Organize
students into four groups and have each group research the organization of one
of the following animals, including social hierarchy and roles of society
members: ants, termites, bees, and naked mole rats. After groups have finished
their research, create a chart on the board and list what students have
learned. How are these societies alike? How are they different?
NOVA—Master of the Killer Ants
information about the role of the ant queen, a sampling of edible bugs, and a
matching ants game.
an online collection of folktales from different regions of Africa.
Ants Can't Hurt You, Can They?
some of the different types of ants found in Africa.
the life, environment, and material culture of the people of the northern
Terrestrial Ecoregions: Mandara Plateau Mosaic
an ecological description of the Mandara Mountains along with a satellite map
of the region and a discussion of the climate and growing conditions.
An Anthology of Myths, Legends and Folktales from Cameroon:
Storytelling in Africa
Emmanuel Matateyou. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997.
anthology of myths, legends, and folktales from Cameroon, collected from oral
performances throughout Cameroon.
Claybourne. Mankato, MN:
Stargazer Books, 2005.
the physical characteristics, behavior, life cycle, and habitat of various
types of ants and termites.
Indaba My Children: African Folktales
by Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa , editor. New York: Grove
a collection of African folk tales that chart the story of African tribal life
since the time of the Phoenicians. Reconstructs the past of the Bantu of Africa
and demonstrates the intertribal friendships and hatreds, and how they were
West African Folktales
compiled by Stephen A. Gale. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Company, 1995.
more than 40 tales from 15 West African countries.
Viewing Ideas Author
Margy Kuntz has written and edited educational materials for 20 years. She has authored numerous educational supplements, basal text materials, and trade books on science, math, and computers.