Acorn ants (genus Temnothorax) are a powerful model organism for illustrating the variety of interactions in an ecosystem. We developed five teaching units with acorn ants as the exemplary insect. The aim of this study was to provide a quantitative and qualitative analysis of secondary school students' attitudes before and after teaching units. Students (N = 459) from 22 classes participated in the study. Students' attitudes were measured using a two-stage test design. We investigated the influence of class level, gender, teaching units, and time period of participation on students' attitudes. Additionally, we surveyed a subsample of students on their learning enjoyment in 10-minute interviews. The findings suggest that students' previous investigations with insects in science classes had been few. The results indicate an influence of gender, time period, and the autonomous keeping of ants on attitudes toward the social insects. Although no changes in attitudes were observed for students of lower and higher secondary school, students at the intermediate level had slightly higher-attitude scores on the posttest than on the pretest. The majority of students evaluated teaching units positively. Our findings suggest that ant research may offer new opportunities for directing students' attention to native woodland inhabitants.
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Vol. 77 • No. 7