FOCUS: Wetlands come alive in spring as frogs and toads serenade us with their chorus of voices. We’ll learn to distinguish who’s who in the pond by studying different amphibians and their pattern of development, observing field marks of frogs, and listening closely to their distinct songs. A field trip to a frog pond is a must!
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about frogs and toads.
Play a short spring frog chorus, and ask children to share thoughts about what they’re hearing.
Materials: audio recordings of frog voices, device to play audio.
GOING ON A FROG HUNT
Objective: To carry out a field investigation of frogs and other amphibians at a local pond or wetland.
Ahead of time, scout out a frog pond and get permission from the landowner to use the site. Find a place where there is easy access for everyone.
Before going to the pond, discuss proper field methods and collection techniques. Remind children that amphibians along with their eggs and tadpoles are very fragile creatures and need to be handled with care. Please leave eggs in the water. If you have nets, let the children practice catching small objects and scooping them up in the net. Remind them that whatever is on our hands can pass through the frog’s permeable skin and might harm them. Have children wash hands ahead of time so they are free of bug repellent, sunscreen, or soap. Have them wet their hands in pond water before holding any frogs or tadpoles. With younger children, use toy frogs to practice the correct way to handle frogs; either “caged” in your hands, or by the legs, but not grasped around the middle. Also remind the children that the tadpoles and frogs they collect are wild animals that need to be handled gently and returned to the pond afterwards.
At the pond, have children work in small groups with one or more adults. Each group should have a white dish basin and a clean five-gallon bucket, as well as some nets and small containers. Fill the dish basins about one-quarter full with pond water. The five-gallon bucket is ideal for larger frogs, and if filled with six to eight inches of water will keep most frogs from escaping. Use the larger containers as collection points where all the children can view captured animals. The smaller dishes and ice cube trays can be used for close-up viewing and plastic for gently scooping up and sorting tadpoles.
After the children have collected frogs and tadpoles, have them make observations and take measurements to gather data to use as evidence for identification. Refer to children’s personal field guides and reference materials to compare, clarify, and confirm frog identification. Have children share observations about movement, behavior, coloration of specimens, and stories about their collecting experiences. Use this opportunity to review previous scientific information presented on frogs and amphibians. Afterwards, take the frogs and tadpole specimens back to the water’s edge and gently tip them back into the water. Have the children say goodbye and thank the frogs for helping them have so much fun learning!
I looked at you,
You looked at me,
I’m glad we met,
And now you’re free.
Materials: For each small group: white dish basin, clean white five-gallon bucket, small plastic containers, ice cube trays and jars, nets of soft mesh, field guides, rulers, magnifying lenses, copy of Goodbye Poem in plastic sleeve; optional: Frogs and Toads of VT and NH.
PUPPET SHOW “Two Lives Are Better than One”
Objective: To learn about the basic characteristics of amphibians, their pattern of development, and variations that distinguish one amphibian from another.
Perform the puppet show or have a group of children perform it for the class. Afterward, ask questions to review the key details and vocabulary in the story. What characteristics make amphibians different from other animals? Why were they given a name that means “two lives”? (They live part of their lives in water, breathing with gills, and part on land, breathing with lungs.) Discuss differences among the three amphibians featured in the puppet show.
Materials: puppets, script, props, stage.
AMPHIBIAN LIFE CYCLE SORT
Objective: To sequence and review the life cycle of three common species of amphibians, noting similarities and differences in their patterns of development.
Have the children work in three small groups for each of three amphibians – wood frog, American toad and Eastern newt. Hang a Life Cycle Sort card for their amphibian around each child’s neck. Challenge them to put their cards in order by lining up from the youngest to the oldest stage in their amphibian’s life. Review the stages and ask them to turn their lines into circles to show how the life cycle stages repeat themselves over time.
To make this more difficult for older children, hang the cards on their backs, where they can see other children’s cards but not their own. Ask them to work together to line themselves up without talking. When it comes time to review the life cycle stages, have children guess the stage depicted on their card based on their observations of the stages depicted on the cards to either side of theirs.
Afterward, as a whole group, review similarities and differences in each amphibian’s pattern of growth. Note how all share the same life cycles stages and yet differ in shape, color, etc.
Materials: three sets of Life Cycle Sort cards, with strings to hang them by; Life Cycle Sort diagrams.
FROG LOOK AND LISTEN
Objective: To observe similarities and differences among some common frogs by viewing photos, listening to their calls, and noting each species’ key distinguishing features.
Show photos of five to nine species of common frogs, noting the distinguishing characteristics or field marks of each. While viewing each photo, play an audio recording of that species’ call. Ask the children to imitate each call and describe what it sounds like. Show only the first five frogs in the audio recording for grades K-2. You may want to focus on the frogs you are most likely to find in your pond. Now display all the frog photos together. Play the calls again, in a different sequence, asking students to identify which frog is singing which song.
Materials: Frog Photos, audio recordings of frog voices, device to play audio, Frog Identification chart.
FROG FINDER JOURNAL ACTIVITY (Grades 3-6)
Objective: To create a visual and audio field guide to identify common frogs.
When doing Frog Look and Listen with older children, pass out Frog Finder ID sheets and colored pencils. Tell the children they will be using these sheets to create their own field guide to help them identify some common frogs and toads. After viewing each frog photo and listening to its call, they will use colored pencils to diagram important field marks and note distinctive features of each species’ call on their Frog Finder ID sheet.
Materials: Frog Photos, Frog Calls audio recording, device to play audio; for each child: Frog Finder ID sheet and colored pencils, Frog Identification chart, clipboards.
JOURNAL ACTIVITY (Grades K-2)
Objective: To record observations about some common frogs.
For younger students, have them draw and color one or more of their favorite frogs or provide them with pictures of frogs from the Frog Finder ID sheet . Have children glue pictures of their three favorite frogs in their journals and write a description of their call.
Materials: journal or paper, Frog Finder ID sheet, colored pencils, scissors, glue.
FIELD MARK FIND
Objective: To use key field marks to identify different species of frogs and toads.
Ahead of time tape the frog photos to widely spaced gym cones. Divide the class into two groups. Hand out drawings of frogs to one group and drawings of their key field marks to the other. Have these two groups stand across from each other and display their cards. Ask the children to use these cards to find their match. Then be the first pair to hop to your matching frog or toad photo.
Materials: Field Mark Find Card Set, gym cones; optional: Frog Identification chart, Frogs and Toads of VT and NH.
CALLING ALL FROGS
Objective: To imitate and recognize the different courtship calls of five different species of frogs.
Begin by reviewing the courtship calls of the five frogs depicted on the Calling All Frogs cards and having everyone practice imitating them. Pass out a Calling All Frogs card to every student, asking them to keep the identity of the frog on their card a secret. Ask the students with blue dots on the back of their cards to form a large circle. Ask the students with red dots to stand in the center of the circle. Explain that the students forming the circle (blue dots) will be the singers and those in the center (red dots) will be the listeners. When you say “go,” the singers will start to sing and the listeners will seek out a frog that is singing “their” song and stand beside it. When everyone has found their match(es), go around the circle and review the various frog calls.
Materials: Two sets of Calling All Frog cards, one set with blue dots marked on the back and the other with red dots.
Objective: To review learning about common local frogs and field marks.
Have each child complete this sentence: “If I were an amphibian, I’d like to be a _________ and one of my field marks would be a __________.”
A STEP BEYOND
Capture the Fly: Turn children into fly-catching frogs by creating frog headbands from paper strips and sticky frog tongues from party blowers. Use strips of green paper with two circles or bumps in the middle to represent the bulging eyes of a frog. Wrap the paper strips around each child’s head, then cut and staple the paper strip to fit. Create fly-catching tongues by unrolling party blowers and attaching a small strip of hooked Velcro to the tip of each blower. Be sure the Velcro is on the top surface of the unfurled blower. Tie small pieces of yarn into tiny bows to create “flies” and scatter these around the room. Give each of the “frogs” a party blower and have them catch flies by blowing and unfurling their “sticky tongues.”