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6-8 > Animals
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: Animals Duration: Two class periods
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Frogs: Facts and Folklore

Students will understand the following:
1. The importance of frogs in their local ecosystem.
2. Why a frog is uniquely suited to its habitat.

For this lesson, you will need:
Pens, pencils, poster paint, markers
Paper, poster board
Books and magazines about frogs and toads
Field guides of local flora and fauna
Glue, tape
Publishing and/or Web site software (optional)
Computer with Internet access (log on towww.frogweb.govfor information on declining amphibian populations)

1. Discuss with students any experiences they have had with frogs and toads. Ask if anyone can explain the difference between the two animals. (Frogs usually live in wet habitats, while toads generally prefer dryer environments.)
2. If climate and availability of a location permit, take students on a mini-field trip to a nearby pond or wetland area. Have students observe and record any frogs or toads they may see. Have students identify the amphibians using a field guide or other resource. Encourage students to record the characteristics of the animal’s habitat. Encourage them to also identify any other animals, insects, trees, and plants in the surrounding habitat. Ask students to notice whether the area seems polluted and if the frogs and toads seem healthy. Remind students not to disturb the wildlife in any way. They’re there to observe—not to collect—the wildlife.
3. If the weather is too inclement, have students research the local frogs, toads, and habitat that they would normally observe. You may also have students conduct research if you are located in an urban area that has displaced the local frog population.
4. Collect encyclopedias and a variety of field guides about frogs and toads. If you have Internet access for your students, you might also want to bookmark the frog-related Internet sites listed below.
5. After students have done the fieldwork or research, have small groups use the data they’ve collected to create a fact sheet or informative poster about the local frog species. Encourage students to provide information about the frog’s place in the food web—that is, what the frog eats and what eats the frog.
6. Provide class time for student groups to present their frog fact sheets or posters.
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Adaptation for older students:
Instead of limiting older students to fact sheets and posters, challenge them to contact local wildlife experts or conservation societies to check out what others know about their local frog population. Some students may wish to extend this activity by observing the frog population over a longer period of time and conducting a frog census.
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Discussion Questions

1. Explain the frog’s role in the food chain. What would happen to the food chain if frog populations were to decline?
2. Discuss what makes a suitable habitat for a frog. Describe the location of your field study and explain why it’s a good or poor frog habitat.
3. Currently, frog populations all over the world are in decline. Make a hypothesis as to why frog populations are decreasing.
4. A decline in the world’s frog populations is often described as an “early warning sign” for the environment. Debate whether or not this is an accurate statement.
5. Scientists have discovered that frog skin contains antibiotics. Considering where frog’s live, explain why they might need their own built-in protection.
6. In many ancient cultures the frog was associated with somewhat negative folklore. Why do you think people might have felt this way? What are some positive cultural myths about frogs?
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You can evaluate your students on their frog fact sheet or poster completion using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points:Student groups collected a sufficient amount of data or research information about local frog species. They transformed their data in a creative way into a fact sheet or poster that illustrated the importance of the frog species to the local ecosystem. The group worked cooperatively and each member contributed to the fact sheet or poster.
  • Two points:Student groups collected some data or research information about local frog species. Their fact sheet or poster presented the basics about the local frog species. Each group member contributed to the fact sheet or poster.
  • One point:Student groups collected the basic data or research information about local frog species. Their fact sheet or poster contained incomplete information and each group member did not contribute to the final project.
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Spread the Word
Encourage students to disseminate information about local frog species and any threats they may face. Have them spread the word about why their area frogs are special. You can also suggest that they formulate a plan to ensure a stable frog population. Students may wish to work with local conservation societies to put their plan into action.

Frog Folklore Collection
Challenge students to find frog folklore from as many different cultures as they can. Have them include the factual information that inspired the folklore. After students collect the folklore, have them illustrate the stories and bind them in a classroom book. Make the book available for other classes to read.

Join the Frog Force!
Students in grades 3–12 can help scientists monitor the condition and population of amphibians in their area. Some scientists believe amphibians are indicator species that may reveal the health of ecosystems. Since the mid-1990s, people have been finding frogs and other amphibians with deformities such as extra or missing limbs. Scientists are trying to find out why the animals are deformed, and they can use kids’ help. Log on towww.frogweb.govto learn how your students can participate in monitoring amphibians in a wetland near you. There are detailed instructions about how to go “frogging,” forms to download and fill out, and background information.

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Suggested Readings

David Badger. Voyageur Press, 2000.
Incredible photographs highlight this book about frogs. Learn about a frog’s life cycle, how and why frogs make their "calls," and how humans have viewed frogs throughout history. The final third of the book provides details about a few of the most common - and the most spectacular - types of frogs.

Tracking the Vanishing Frogs: An Ecological Mystery
Kathryn Phillips. St. Martin’s Press, 1994.
In the early nineteen-nineties scientists realized that the numbers of frogs and some other amphibians had been drastically declining over the previous few decades. The author of this book followed scientists who went into the field and laboratories to document the decline and to try to understand what was causing it. The book reads like a mystery story, but is concerned with the very basics of man’s relationship to nature.

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The Whole Frog Project
Frog information and virtual dissection

Info on frogs, includes frog folklore

A Thousand Friends of Frogs
Resource for students and teachers on frogs and amphibians

A Key to Tadpoles of the United States and Cananda
Dichotomous key to identifying tadpoles, includes photograph when characteristics match

Consortium of Aquariums, Universities, and Zoos
List of lots of weblinks for frog and amphibian information

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    amphibian
Definition:Any of the class of cold-blooded vertebrates such as frogs, toads, and salamanders intermediate between fishes and reptiles; they have gilled aquatic larva and air-breathing adults.
Context:Frogs and toads are amphibians because they spend part of their lives in water and part of their lives on land.

speaker    displace
Definition:To remove from the usual or proper place; to expel or force to flee.
Context:Large urban areas displace the local wildlife.

speaker    ecology
Definition:A branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments.
Context:Any kind of pollution will have a negative impact on frog ecology.

speaker    food web
Definition:The totality of interacting food chains in an ecological community.
Context:The frog is considered nature’s “fast food” in the food web, because for many prey it is an easily captured, nutritious source of protein.

speaker    habitat
Definition:The place or environment where a plant or animal naturally lives and grows.
Context:A frog’s habitat is usually a swampy wetland area.

speaker    population
Definition:The total of organisms inhabiting a particular locality.
Context:A decline in the world’s frog population is not a good sign for the general health of the planet.

speaker    species
Definition:A category of biological ranking made up of related organisms potentially capable of interbreeding.
Context:When a species is extinct, such as the carrier pigeon, it means that there are no longer any animals of that kind alive on Earth.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:6-8
Subject area:Life Science
Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
Knows how an organism’s ability to regulate its internal environment enables the organism to obtain and use resources, grow, reproduce, and maintain stable internal conditions while living in a constantly changing external environment.
Benchmark:Knows ways in which species interact and depend on one another in an ecosystem.
Benchmark:Knows that all individuals of a species that occur together at a given place and time make up a population, and all populations living together and the physical factors with which they interact compose an ecosystem.
Benchmark:Knows factors that affect the number and types of organisms that an ecosystem can support.
Benchmark:Knows relationships that exist among organisms in food chains and food webs.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:Life Science
Understands the cycling of matter and flow of energy through the living environment.
Knows how energy is transferred through food webs in an ecosystem.

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Audrey Carangelo, freelance curriculum developer.
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