Frogs Background Information for Teachers and Parents
This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about amphibians, tadpoles, and frogs. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Frogs. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.
Frogs can be found practically everywhere, from urban parks to woodland forests. They can even be found in some deserts! This movie will explain the life cycle of a frog and explore some reasons why frogs’ populations are changing. We encourage you to learn about the frogs in your community as a way to extend and apply the material introduced in the topic. Before exploring frogs, you may wish to screen part of the Classifying Animals movie, which introduces vertebrates and shares some information about amphibians. You might also be interested in the movie Camouflage, because frogs use both camouflage and mimicry to avoid predators.
Remind children that frogs are vertebrates, which means they have a spine, or backbone. Frogs are also amphibians, which means they have adapted to live both in water and on land. Remind children that amphibians are cold-blooded, which means they rely on their environment to control their body temperatures. They warm up on land and cool down in the water or mud. Frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians are all types of amphibians.
Children may ask about the differences between frogs and toads. Both are in the same family, so technically toads are frogs. In general, people say that toads are fatter and squatter than frogs and have shorter legs. Frogs have bulging eyes, while the eyes in toads are more deeply set. Toads have rougher, drier skin with “warts,” while frogs have smooth moist skin. (It may be important to note that toads’ “warts” cannot transfer to people, despite what urban legends might say.) These general differences between frogs and toads may be applied to those found in North America, but not necessarily to species that live in habitats closer to the Equator. There the physical distinctions between frogs and toads are far more subtle, or may even be reversed, with toads being damp-skinned and frogs having warts.
Remind children that adult frogs breathe through lungs, just like people. However, many frogs can breathe and drink water through their skin as well. Frogs have strong legs that help them jump and hop great distances relative to their body lengths. Many species of tree frogs have sticky feet and grasping toes to help them cling to leaves and branches. Some species have webbed feet, which help them swim. Flying or gliding frogs have large webbed feet to help them maneuver between trees. Most frogs have long, sticky tongues that help them snatch up insects and other prey. Remind children that prey is an animal that is eaten by other animals.
Where do frogs live? Ask children where they may have seen frogs. Frogs can only live in freshwater habitats, so they are not found in saltwater oceans and seas. Many frogs live near rivers, lakes, streams, and ponds, but they can also be found in jungles, rainforests, woodland forests, and even deserts. The Trilling frog lives in the deserts of Australia and burrows deep underground awaiting rain. It can spend months of its life underground. Frogs in colder, snowy areas may hibernate underground through the winter.
Remind children that living things have ways to survive in their environments. Review that a predator is an animal that eats another animal. Frogs have many predators, including snakes, birds, raccoons, fox, and even other frogs. Frogs therefore have many adaptations to stay safe and ward off predators. They can croak loudly to communicate with each other and scare off enemies. The sacs in their throat act like a drum to help magnify the sound. Many frogs, such as the laughing tree frog, use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. Other frogs, like the fire-bellied toad, flash bright colors to scare off predators. Some of the most poisonous animals on the planet are the brightly colored dart frogs. Some frogs have special glands that emit bitter toxins that make them unpalatable, or urinate on themselves to ward off would-be predators. Many frogs, such as the tomato frog, can puff their bodies up to appear larger—too large to swallow whole.
Review with children that a life cycle shows how a living thing grows and changes. Female frogs lay tiny, soft eggs in the water. Tadpoles hatch from the eggs, and they look very different from adult frogs. Tadpoles have long bodies and tails and live exclusively underwater, breathing through gills. As they develop, they grow back legs and then their front legs. They develop lungs and internal organs and eventually lose their tails. At this point, they are frogs and can live on land. When they become adult frogs, they can mate and start the life cycle again.
Today, many species of frogs are being threatened due to human activity. Some frogs are losing their habitats due to deforestation and wetland destruction. Pollution and pesticides are also a threat to many frog species. Since many frogs breathe through their skin, they are incredibly sensitive to toxins in the environment. In addition, invasive species are threatening frogs around the planet. For example, people have introduced trout to many freshwater rivers and streams. The trout have been eating eggs and tadpoles, harming frog populations. Bullfrogs are common in North America, but have been introduced to other countries as far away as Italy and Venezuela. The large bullfrogs often compete for food with smaller, native species of frog. As a result, bullfrog populations are exploding around the globe, taking over entire habitats. Climate change is affecting frogs as well. Rising temperatures are contributing to the spread of Chytrid fungus, a deadly fungus that infects frogs through their skins and is decimating frog populations.
Help children understand that frogs play an important role in many food chains and food webs. Many animals rely on frogs for food and if frog species are threatened or become endangered or extinct, the entire food chain can be affected. Help children understand that they should protect the environment and think about how their actions can affect living things around them. Encourage them to protect habitats in their community and be good global citizens.