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Pond Water and Pollywogs Exemplary Plans
Pond Water and Pollywogs

At a Glance
Grade Level:
Life science
Key Learnings:
Life cycle
Time Needed:
12-15 weeks, appr. 4 hrs/wk, 45 min/day
From the Classroom
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Unit Summary
The local zoo has a new amphibians exhibit and needs a newsletter to help visitors understand and appreciate frogs. On their way to becoming frog experts, students study the universal features of habitats, observe frogs in their natural environment, and raise frogs from eggs. Students record their observations and reflections in words and pictures in a science log. They show their understanding of habitats in general and the specific features of frog habitat in an electronic slideshow. They create a newsletter illustrating the frog life cycle and habitat, both natural and man-made, and give specific details about the frog exhibit.

Curriculum Framing Questions

  • Essential Questions
    How do animals grow?
  • Unit Questions
    What is the life cycle of the frog?
    How does the habitat of a species support its life cycle?
    How do natural and man-made habitats compare?

Instructional Procedures

In Preparation for the Unit
  1. Prepare a letter, addressed to the class, describing the zoo�s frog exhibit. This will appear to have been written by someone at the zoo (or, you could actually have someone at the zoo write a letter on official letterhead, requesting students� help).
  2. If collecting from the wild, determine rules for collection and release of animals in the area (the state department of fish and wildlife is a good starting place).
  3. Arrange for frog eggs to be collected or delivered.
  4. Get an aquarium (approximately 20-gallons) and materials necessary for tadpole/frog habitat (see Resources for habitat requirements).
  5. Gather frog videos, books, print and electronic resources.
  6. Line up a guest speaker, an amphibians expert, to visit the classroom.
Introduce the Project
  1. On the first day of the unit, a letter from the local zoo is delivered to the class. Read and discuss the letter, and develop the scenario. Discuss frogs and start a KWL chart. Record prior knowledge and record questions about frogs. Record ideas, as well as thoughts on steps students can take to answer their questions.
  2. Present and discuss the essential question �How do frogs grow?�. Students record ideas, using writing and drawing, in a frog observation journal. Observation journal questions are used to probe understanding during the course of the unit, with students writing, drawing, or dictating responses. Record responses on chart paper. In a discussion, compare what frogs and people need to grow. Record similarities and differences on a T chart. The term �habitat� is introduced as the concept that encompasses comparisons such as, home, food, air, water, etc.
  3. Students record what they believe to be the necessary features of frog habitat in their journals. Share ideas, and record. For homework, challenge students to come up with a list of essential features of human habitat.
Learning About Frog Habitat
  1. At the end of the first week, students visit a local pond and observe natural frog habitat. They photograph the site and features of the pond to refer back to when setting up the aquarium at school. (Digital images are also useful for later projects and presentations.) Using various instruments, students measure and record water quality. The pH (alkalinity/acidity), temperature, and dissolved oxygen are three factors of water quality that may be measured. Kits for testing pH and dissolved oxygen can be found at any pet store. After the field trip, students draw in their frog journals, illustrating and labeling the helpful features of frog habitat they saw. In group, the characteristics of frog habitat are discussed, and a list of criteria for their artificial frog habitat is developed. The KWL chart is developed further. Using a book on amphibian husbandry, the teacher elaborates on habitat requirements that may not have been developed thus far, and students record new information in their journals.
  2. Students complete either or both of these activities: 1) Using the frog habitat criteria they�ve developed, students paint murals of frogs in their natural habitat. They label the illustrations, and the murals are posted around the room. 2) Using field guides and illustrations for reference, students paint or draw frogs indigenous to the region. They add captions that synthesize what they learned about these frogs. The murals become a dynamic part of the project as students add to them throughout the course of the unit.
  3. Students apply their knowledge of natural habitat to create the aquarium habitat for the frog eggs. When eggs are placed in the aquarium, students draw their observations of frog development every few days in their journals, recording dates of entry. Water quality (pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen) is tested and recorded daily and modified as needed.
  4. Students demonstrate their understanding periodically as they answer questions posed by the teacher in their journals. (See observation journal questions, above.)
Student Multimedia Presentation
  1. Students create a slideshow on habitats in general, and frog habitat in particular. The presentation has these components:
    • An introduction to the frog project
    • An explanation of elements of all habitats
    • A description of natural frog habitat throughout the life cycle
    • A description of the creation of an artificial frog habitat
    • A comparison of natural and artificial habitats
    Students collaborate in small heterogeneous groups, and each group completes one component of the presentation (above). Each member of the group is assigned a role, with roles rotating between members. A rough draft of group work is developed on a storyboard planning sheet prior to work in Microsoft PowerPoint*, and a template is used to structure the presentation. Slide details, sequence, transitions and timing can be determined by class consensus as slides are organized into a class show.
Research Activities- Frog Life Cycle
  1. Using the curriculum-framing questions to focus learning, students gather information about the frog life cycle. Students continue writing questions that arise in their journals. These are used as the basis for class discussion. As they study, students record interesting information in their journal.
  2. Introduce the frog life cycle in a puzzle format. Using the life cycle diagram, create enough puzzle packs for pairs of students to share. To make the puzzles, cut the diagrams apart, and separate pictures from labels. To recreate the puzzle, students put the diagrams in order, and match these to the correct labels. After completing the puzzle, students read captions aloud to one another.
  3. Students can document the frog life cycle on a large poster as they watch their frogs develop. Throughout this research period, adult helpers or upper grade buddies can assist students with reading, writing, and computer use.
Student Newsletter
  1. Children create a newsletter for zoo visitors. Each group develops one component of the newsletter. When rough drafts are complete, students meet with another group and get feedback and suggestions for improvement. When revision is complete, students submit their contributions and the newsletter is assembled by an adult. This includes:
    • An introduction explaining the Pond Water and Pollywogs study
    • The planning process by which a habitat was created for the developing frogs
    • What a frogs eats in the wild and how it gathers food
    • A narrative relating a personal observation or experience with frogs
    • A book review
    • Comparison of frogs and toads
    • A frog-related puzzle, joke or riddle
    • �About the authors� information
    • Digital pictures, graphics, or scanned artwork may be included

Prerequisite Skills

  • Basic computer navigation skills (using the mouse, some keyboarding)
  • Reading
  • Research using books and the Internet
  • Writing

Differentiated Instruction

  • Resource Student
    Students work in heterogeneous groups in each of the three projects. The projects are very open-ended and allow for every student to have success. Students who are differently abled will be given additional adult assistance, extra work time, and task modifications as needed.
  • Gifted Student
    Gifted students may serve as experts (in reading, writing, technology use) and help others. They may also choose to do research on an aspect of frogs that was not focused on in class.
  • English Language Learner (ELL)
    The ESL teacher may help students translate basic terms into an English/native language glossary. Posting translated terms around the room allows all students to learn. The ESL teacher can explain difficult concepts and help students complete journal entries. Bilingual students can be paired with non-native speakers for tasks that require reading and writing. Journal writing may be completed in the native language for later translation. Assignments may be adapted, or allow more time allowed as necessary.

Students demonstrate their learning on an ongoing basis as they respond to questions posed by the teacher. Frequent probing for understanding allows the teacher to monitor and adjust instruction in a responsive way. Summative evaluation is based on these final prompts:

  1. Using all you have learned, draw the life cycle of the frog. Label your drawing with important information.
  2. Draw a picture of a frog�s natural habitat; showing everything a frog needs to be happy and healthy.
  3. Draw a picture of the frog�s artificial habitat that we created in class, showing everything we included.
  4. How are the two habitats the same? How are they different? How might one be better than the other, and in what ways?
Student assessment is based on journal responses completed during and following the unit are assessed using the science content rubric

Lisa-helen Shapiro participated in the Intel� Teach to the Future program, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.

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