Back to School at FROGS ARE GREEN!

It’s back-to-school time and we’d like to introduce you to a few notable children’s books about frogs and other amphibians published recently:

THE FROG SCIENTIST by Pamela S. Turner, photographs by Andy Comins (Houghton Mifflin, 2009)

Dr. Tyrone Hayes, with his children, reads a book his mother gave him as a child, from THE FROG SCIENTIST. Photo copyright Andy Comins.

This book, part of the Scientist in the Field Series, is a biography of frog scientist Dr. Tyrone Hayes at UC-Berkeley, who has done groundbreaking studies about the effects of atrazine, a widely used herbicide, on frogs.  While the book is mainly a biography of Hayes, it is also a good overview of the global amphibian crisis and it includes an easy-to-understand explanation of the scientific method. The book has a lively, engaging design and many wonderful photos. It would be ideal for kids who are at that age (around 10 or so) when they decide that “science is boring.”

Dr. Hayes is an engaging subject for a biography, and the anecdotes about him are refreshing for this type of book (which can often be dry). A whole unit could be planned around THE FROG SCIENTIST, covering such topics as a science as a career, African Americans in science, the global amphibian decline, the scientific method, to name just a few.

A PLACE FOR FROGS by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Higgins Ford (Peachtree 2009).

A PLACE FOR FROGS by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Higgins Bond

For younger children (@5-8), this nonfiction picture book introduces different species of frogs and places them in their habitats. Each oversized double-page spread features a frogs species, their habitat, and shows some of the ways that human action and interaction can affect frog populations.

For example, one spread describes the Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged frog and its habitat, and explains why adding trout to the frogs ponds caused their decline (the trouts devoured the tadpoles). When people removed the trout, the frog populations began to recover. The frog and its habitat is depicted in gorgeous realistic paintings and is described in easy-to-understand language.

A Place for Frogs could be used for teaching kids about animal habitats (this author/artist team also did A Place for Butterflies and A Place for Birds). It could also be used in a unit about endangered animals, a unit devoted to frogs and amphibians, or it could be read as a springboard to study a local endangered frog in more detail, depending on where the school is located.

Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein, art by Carol Benioff (Boyds Mill, 2010).

Illustration from BIG NIGHT FOR SALAMANDERS by Sarah Marwil Lamstein, art by Carol Benioff

In this narrative nonfiction picture book, a boy waits for the Big Night, the first rainy night in late winter or early spring when the blue-spotted salamanders begin their annual migrations. The salamanders must travel from their forest burrows to vernal pools, where they breed and lay eggs. The problem is the salamanders must cross a busy highway to reach the vernal pools. The boy, along with other volunteers, helps the salamanders cross the road. A parallel text in italics describes the migration of salamanders.

This is a lovely simple story about how one boy helps an endangered species close to home. It is illustrated in richly-colored gouache. At the back is information about the life cycle of blue-spotted salamanders, as well as information about the Big Night and vernal pools.

Big Night for Salamanders would be a good read-aloud book for younger children. It could also be used in units about the life cycles of animals, and about species whose habitats are threatened. Teachers could read this book in the spring and plan a field trip to a local vernal pool.

Don’t forget about the FROGS ARE GREEN ART CONTEST FOR KIDS! Please download and print out this flyer to tell kids about the contest.


Teachers: Calling All Frog Artists!

Susan and I are seeking kids’ frog art—lots of it! We hope to encourage kids and their teachers to learn about and get interested in frogs, toads, and other amphibians. If you’re an elementary school teacher, parent, or educator, please send us jpegs (2mb maximum size) of your students’ or kids’ drawings or paintings of frogs and we will display them in school group galleries on the FROGS ARE GREEN blog. We’d be happy to receive images of any art form—sculpture, drawing, painting, or watercolor.

If the art work is part of a school project, please send the jpegs in one bunch. Individual drawings not part of a class project are fine, too. Include the name of your school, state, country (if not the U.S.), grade level, and child’s name for each piece of art.

Please print out the attached flyer to post in your neighborhood schools.

Here are some ways in which learning about and drawing frogs could be incorporated into the school curriculum:

Art classes

Language arts. As we’ve posted before, there so many wonderful children’s books with frog characters. Click on Literary Frogs on the right to see a few. I plan to review more titles in the coming weeks.

Rainforest unit: Rainforest frogs are some of the most colorful and interesting animals in the rainforest.

Endangered animals: Almost one-third of all amphibians are threatened with extinction, yet most kids probably don’t know this. Pick an endangered frog or toad and learn about it.

Local flora and fauna: Learn about the frogs and other amphibians in your area, and also learn to recognize their calls.

Life cycle of animals: Many state science education standards require children to learn about the life cycle of animals. Frogs have one of the most interesting life cycles—from tadpole to froglet to frog.

Below I’ve posted two YouTube videos about how to draw a frog. One is simple line drawing, and the other is more detailed, for older kids.


Frogs in the Classroom: Books and DVDs

School is just around the corner, so we’ve put together some recent books and DVDs about our amphibian friends that you, your students, or your kids might enjoy. The descriptions are from Amazon or from the publishers’ websites.

Books for Kids

Face to Face with Frogs by Mark Moffet. (National Geographic, 2008). 32 pgs. 4-8.

You’re two inches away from a poison dart frog. You’re lying on the rainforest floor as she hops toward you, utterly fearless. This deadly terribilis frog has nothing to fear; your fear is that any accidental contact with your skin could mean death! Let Mark W. Moffett, winner of the 2006 Lowell Thomas Medal for Exploration, show you around the diverse world of frogs.


Frogs by Nic Bishop (Scholastic Nonfiction, 2008). Ages 7-11, 48 pages.

For the first- to third-grade set, frogs are an endless source of fascination, especially when looked at VERY close up. See tiny poison dart frogs and mammoth bullfrogs, as Nic Bishop’s amazing images show the beauty and diversity of frogs from around the globe.


The Frog Scientist (Scientist in the Field Series), by Pamela S. Turner and Andy Comins (Houghton Mifflin, July 2009) 64 pages, ages 9-12

This Scientists in the Field title is about frog scientist Dr. Tyrone Hayes, who has explored the effects that pesticides, particularly atrazine, have on frogs and, in turn, on us.

This summer we did a post on Dr. Tyrone Hayes. With Atrazine in the news just this week, I hope we will continue hear a lot more from Dr. Hayes.


Books for High School Students and Above

Extinction in Our Times: Global Amphibian Decline, by James P. Collins and Martha L. Crump, introduction by Thomas E. Lovejoy III (Oxford University Press, June 2009).

The first book to fully examine the dramatic, ongoing extinction of amphibian species across a whole vertebrate class, revealing what it may portend for the health of the planet. Joining scientific rigor and vivid storytelling, this book uses amphibian decline as a lens through which to see more clearly the larger story of climate change, conservation of biodiversity, and a host of profoundly important ecological, evolutionary, ethical, philosophical, and sociological issues.


We have ordered this brand new book, published this summer, and are looking forward to reading it.


Nature Frogs: The Thin Green Line, PBS DVD

Frogs have been hopping the planet for more than 350 million years; evolving into some of the most wondrous, diverse and beloved animals on earth. Suddenly, they’re slipping away. Some say it’s the greatest extinction since the dinosaurs. Ecosystems are beginning to unravel and medical cures are vanishing. It’s a global crisis, mobilizing scientists around the world to stem the tide, before the next frog crosses the thin green line.

We watched this show online on the PBS website—it’s well worth watching. This DVD would be great for a high school biology, environmental science, or social studies class.

Occasionally blog readers send us their products to review. We received a DVD called Danni’s Tales written and directed by Allen Plone and produced by Damon Cohen. This innovative series combines live action with animation. The show is set in a classroom where Danni Donkey introduces her students to special friends while they travel around the world, enjoying music, dance, and learning about the world’s animals and the environment.

We watched a few of the shows, and we think they will delight children. Each show features a different animal—frogs, bears, whales, and others. They are fun, quirky, and educational—the songs are catchy and clever. Take a look at their website, where you can play clips of the episodes.