Lesson Plan Part 3: Virtual Froggie

This lesson was developed by Virginia Annett, who has a degree in Sociology as well as Masters degrees in school administration and

assessment, and Dr. Cynthia Annett, who has a PhD in Zoology from the University of California at Berkeley.


You can find additional resources for this lesson by clicking on these links:

Tadpole Tales and the Virtual Froggie lesson in the student section of this website. Image files are in the Virtual Froggie Files page.

Amphibian and Reptile species on Friends of the Kaw's Critter Corner website


Overview: Presentation to students. Students will learn about basic frog behavior and ecology. An emphasis will be placed on the fact that frogs are a vital part of the ecology of the Kansas River, but many species are endangered and losing them from the ecosystem will harm the river.
    
Grades:  5-7 and 8-12

Kansas State Standards can be downloaded in Word format from our Kansas State and National Standards Google Document.
 
Objective:  

  • Students will understand the importance of frogs and other amphibians.
  • Students will learn about what foods and habitats frogs require during different stages of their life cycle.
  • Students will learn about complex life cycles.


Materials:  Image files for this exercise are in the file cabinet on the Virtual Froggie Files page. You can also create your own image files with a digital camera, or by scanning drawings made by the students. We set up this exercise using Microsoft PowerPoint since it can be used offline and is a common program on school computers (schools and non-profits can get donated copies of Microsoft Office from TechSoup). However, if you do not have PowerPoint you can do the same lesson using Microsoft Word or other similar word processing software that can display images in JPG and PNG format. Students 13 and younger cannot sign up for their own Google Account, but older students can do this lesson in Google Documents- Presentations and Google Documents- Drawing, which is free and provides a variety of tools (including drawing tools). We provide instructions for using Google Documents at the end of this lesson plan.

Method:  Students will build a "virtual terrarium" for Leopard Frog tadpoles, metamorphosing juveniles, and adults. In the first section of Tadpole Tales, Peggy Madden provides us with a detailed written account of how she reared two Leopard Frog eggs to adulthood to go along with a series of close up photographs of the frogs and their terrarium. Have the students read the story to find out what the tadpoles and frogs ate, and what kind of habitat they live in. See how many pieces of information the students can pick out from the slides and the story to help them create their "virtual terrariums."

Detailed instructions are provided on the student Virtual Froggie webpage. Begin by going to the Virtual Froggie Files page and downloading the image files that the students want to use and saving them on your computer desktop. We provide many more files than will be needed for anyone terrarium, in order to give the students as many choices as possible. Students can use background images, or they can start from scratch and build their own backgrounds using individual rocks and plants that can be moved around the slide (and turned or flipped). Make sure that the students provide a way for adult frogs to get out of the water, and that they add either algae or crickets as the appropriate foods.

Students can make a different slide for each stage. They can also make slides with text to explain what they have created. You can expand this into a writing exercise by having the students tell the story of Tadpole Tales from the frogs point of view (who would it feel to be a tadpole and suddenly grow legs and lose your tale?) More advanced students can add audio files to their slide in PowerPoint, which could be a way to combine this unit with Sing Like a Frog. It is possible to make a movie using PowerPoint, which could be a way to make a stop action film (for example, make several slides with Froggie pursuing the cricket across the terrarium).

Instructor will: Present in a lecture format an explanation of the basic biology of different life stages of the Leopard Frog, and provide assistance in the use of computer technology.

Students will: Students will demonstrate an understanding that frogs and amphibians have complex life cycles with different food and habitat requirements.

Evaluation: Knowledge of basic frog biology will be demonstrated by including all of the necessary objects in each PowerPoint slide (where appropriate these would include food, shelter, basking sites, etc.). Students should turn in their slides as part of an e-portfolio for evaluation.

Students will demonstrate: An understanding of how the differences between tadpoles and adult frogs lead to different lifestyles and ecology, as well as skill in using computers to create original graphics to illustrate their ideas.

Lecture: All animals need food, water, oxygen, shelter from predators, temperatures that aren't too hot or too cold, and a place for their young to grow up. But they differ a lot when it comes to what form these requirements take; mammals like us need to breathe air, while fish use their gills to get oxygen from the water, and frogs can either get oxygen from the water through their skin or breathe air on land. So when we think about how to set up a terrarium for a frog in captivity we must think about everything they need and make sure it comes in the right form and the right amounts.

Below is information that can be used in a discussion with the students after they read the story on Tadpole Tales and view the slides. These questions are on the student Virtual Froggie page. Have the students read over the questions and think about Peggy's story, then have them sit in a circle and take turns answering a question and describing what they learned.


What did Peggy feed the tadpoles?

Peggy fed her tadpoles dry dog food because she was not able to collect algae from her pond (which would be their natural food) during the winter; when the tadpoles became frogs they switched to eating crickets.

Do you know what tadpoles eat in the wild?

Most tadpoles eat algae and tiny plants.

Why do you think Peggy fed them what she did?

Because in the cold winter months algae doesn't grow outside in ponds and was too hard to get, so she used an artificial food.

Where do tadpoles live?
In shallow standing water, usually ponds or pools. They live near plants, rocks, or other structure so that they can take shelter from predators. Tadpoles live underwater all of the time and cannot survive on dry land.

See if you can find out about other things they need-- like the temperature they prefer, where they go to hide from predators, and other things that make a good tadpole habitat.

Captive Leopard Frogs prefer temperatures between about 60o F and 70o F. Adults typically stay near vegetation along the shore. Tadpoles feed on algae that lives on the bottom of the pond and will hide in plants or rocks to escape predators like fish and Bullfrogs.


What happened when they went through metamorphosis?

When Froggie and Nessie went through metamorphosis they grew their hind legs first, then their front legs, and they resorbed their tails (the bone, muscle and other tissues are broken down and taken back into their bodies, they don't loose their tails like a lizard does when attacked by a predator). Once they grew legs they began to crawl out on the rocks and spend more time at the surface.

How do you think it would feel to grow legs and loose your tail?

(This should be an exercise in creative thinking, have the students pretend to be startled by all the big changes happening to them as they metamorphose from a tadpole to a frog.)

Do you think it would be hard to go from being in the water full time to getting out on dry land?

There are a lot of changes that take place-- the frog begins to hop rather than swim with its tail, it breathes air, uses its tongue to catch prey, and enters an entirely new habitat.



What did Peggy feed the adult frogs?

Froggie and Nessie were given crickets, which are easy to get from a pet store. In the wild adult Leopard Frogs eat a variety of insects, spiders, worms and snails.

Did they need a different place to live?

Adult Leopard Frogs come out of the water for at least part of the time. Peggy provided them with a new terrarium that contained rocks and plants, and gave them a source of heat so that they could bask.

What are all of the things that Peggy made for them in their new homes?

(Show slides of the different terrariums and ponds that Peggy made for the frogs as they grew up and ask the students to name differences that they see.)


Where do adult frogs go to mate? Have you heard them calling during the spring? Where?

(This would be a good opportunity to link the adult frogs to the tadpoles-- when they are ready to mate, the adults go to the habitat that is best for the tadpoles and lay their eggs in conditions that are good for egg and tadpole development. If there is a safe place for a field trip and it is the proper time of the year, have the students go outside and listen for calling frogs. Ask them to compare the places where they hear frogs calling to the conditions in the terrariums.)


Using Google Documents-Presentations

For students who are 14 and older you can set up Google Accounts and use Google Documents for their Virtual Froggie exercise. To set up a Google Account click here Once you have a Google Account sign in, and on the upper toolbar find Documents (it might be in the More dropdown). Go to Google Documents and Create a Presentation.





Google Documents- Presentation works a lot like PowerPoint, and you can upload PowerPoint presentations into it and download your Google Documents- Presentation as a PowerPoint file. One additional tool that you will have is the ability to draw freehand lines, and students can use this to create their own drawings to add to their Virtual Terrariums.


References:

Care Sheet with instructions on how to keep Leopard Frogs in captivity- this will give additional ideas for developing "virtual terrariums"

Collins, J. T. (1982 ). Amphibians and reptiles in Kansas. Lawrence: University of Kansas Publications.

A comprehensive work on their ecology in the wild is available from the USFWS technical species accounts.