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pocket knife, spade, zip lock baggies, 15ml vials, pooter, magnifying lens, white collecting pan, white sheet or pillow case...
you can find ants anywhere! begin by getting on the ground and looking. you can also find them crawling over rocks, stone walls and tree trunks. where can you find ant colonies? under logs, under stones, under leaves in the forest, sometimes in between the leaves, in acorns, in the roots with the grass. inside rotting logs and branches.
if you find the pale white eggs and larva, you've got a jackpot. collect a bunch and a bunch of the ants with them. if you want to dig further you can look for the queen. then you will have a self perpetuating colony.
there are many approaches. if you think the whole colony is inside an acorn or a twig or a branch, collect the whole thing and put it in a plastic baggy, or container. you can then observe it. if you want to be sure there's a queen in there you've got to bust it open on a big white surface and see who runs out.
even if you collect several dozen workers with a mess of larvae and eggs, you will have PLENTY to observe.