Thursday, October 1, 2009

Going Down to the Frog Pond

Frog Pond

Photo Credit: Dick, Jane and Sally Go Down to the Frog Pond
on Flickr, Creative Commons.

There is nothing that children like more than to head down to the frog pond. We bring clear plastic jars, fish nets, eye droppers, magnifying glasses and guidebooks. We run and sing frog songs as we go but when we are approaching the pond we begin to tiptoe, hush our voices and look all around.

Sometimes we only see water striders on the surface and minnows swimming near the edge. But on special days we have seen wood ducks with their ducklings, tadpoles by the thousands and bullfrogs puffing out their throats calling out their deep-voiced Chug-a-rum!

We scoop up jars of water, catch a minnow or tadpole, sit down on the bank and start to observe. No matter how many times we go down to the frog pond there is something new to see. By careful observation we discover something we have never seen before.

That is the time that we begin to record our observations. We take photos with the digital camera, make carefully detailed drawings and write a through and detailed report of what we have seen.

These recordings are later made into books, poems, calendars, or card games so that we can share our information with others.

What do you do when you go down to the frog pond?

For lots more froggy activities go to Frog Unit Study

Friday, September 11, 2009

Review of My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

My Side of the Mountain (Mountain, Book 1) My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My Side of the Mountain is one of the first books I remember reading as a child. Reading this book made me feel powerful. I made me feel that I was in control of my life and that I too could survive if I decided to go out into the woods on my own. All I needed was a few more survival skills.

My sister and I tried out many of the techniques that Sam Gribley mentions in My Side of the Mountain. I remember trying to make a rabbit snare. We spent hours and days trying to find a path in the grass where rabbits run. When we couldn't find that we decided to just try making the snare in preparation for the day that we found the rabbit run.

Time went on. We tried out many of Sam's ideas. We learned a lot about the woods and fields near our home. We never actually stayed out over night. When we were tired, home always seemed the best place to find a bed and hot food but we always knew that someday we could run away like Sam Gribley in My Side of the Mountain.

Read my expanded review of My Side of the Mountain>>

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Communication in the 18th Century

When you sit on the porch on the Garner Rix Farm you see the hay field and the flower beds, the hillside covered in trees and swallows swooping back and forth searching for insects on a warm summer day.

There are no houses in sight.

Though this may see isolated, the cell phone tower across the way provides excellent service, the mailbox is at the end of the five and a satellite dish points to the sky from the back of the woodshed.

But what was it like for Garner Rix when he was first clearing the land? I had always imagined that communication was difficult to impossible but when I took a second look I found evidence to the contrary.

My first hint was when I was talking with my next door neighbor. We were discussing what life was like before the Interstate came through. You see, the mountains form a valley that makes sounds easily carry. My neighbor says that at one time you could be working out in the hay field and listen to voices down in the village. You might not be able to understand what they were saying but you could hear them.

Intrigued, I listened for breads in the traffic to see if that was still possible.

Once a year the Royalton Town Band plays down in the village. I had planned to go down but was running late when there was a break in the traffic and all of a sudden I heard the band playing. Then there was the sound of clapping.This tells me that Garner Rix too was able to hear his neighbors.

He must have been able to hear his neighbors chopping down trees, splitting wood, calling to their oxen or the women calling the men in to dinner.

Another day I began reading a wonderful book, Look to the Mountain, by LeGrand Canon. This is a book about a young couple,k Whit and Melissa, who got married and moved from Connecticut to New Hampshire in about 1767 or around 20 years before Garner Rix's family moved up to the Grants, later know as Vermont.

Whit and his neighbors often walked 20 miles or more to help eachother during the pioneering process. By working together they got to know eachother's ways while exchanging news from the neighbors or from distant places such as Boston or England.

One day Whit could hear someone cutting trees. He knew form the direction of the sound which place it came from. By paying attention to the rhythm of the chopping he determined which of the three men living on that homestead we doing the chopping, another form of communication.

There was a time when letters traveled quickly in this country. Around 1900 you could put a letter in the mail with a message that you would be up to visit in the afternoon. What amazed me when I read postcards from this time period was that these messages traveled so quickly that the people who you planned to visit received it in time to prepare before the visitor arrived.

The mail system is now reverting back to what it was like in Garner Rix's time. A first class letter now takes 7-10 business days. The difference is that now it costs much more. In Garner Rix's time, anyone who traveled expected to carry letters that were going in his general direction. They would be passed from person to person, left at houses or stores when the traveler took a different direction and be picked up by the next person headed in the right direction.

If the message was urgent, neighbors might make a special trip to get the message through. Many forms of communication have changed since Garner Rix's time. Compare and contrast the various form of communication. Which time would you prefer to live in?

To learn more about Garner Rix, be sure to check out Garner Rix and the Royalton Raid.

This photo, Looking Across the Field can also be seen on RedGage

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Looking for Frogs in Vermont

You might have noticed that I have been a bit absent from the Internet lately. I am in Vermont searching for Frogs. Though I have been searching the streams and pools around my farm I have not found any yet. It is still cold here and has been rainy most of the time so maybe that is why but as soon as I find some I will be sure to post pictures.

Be sure to tell me of your adventures in searching for frogs this summer.

The frog pictures is believed to be in the public domain.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Frog Calls around the Frog Pond

When learning about frogs, children need many hands-on learning experiences to make their learning come alive. One day we were reading about the way that male frogs call to their mates in the early spring. We talked about how the male frog fills his vocal sac with air and then lets the air out like air being released slowly from a balloon. This discussion developed into the following game....

Male frogs call in the spring as they search for mates. Each species has it's own call.

...Frogs call with the help of a patch, or two patches , of skin called vocal sacs. These fill with air and act as echo chambers as that air passes over the vocal cords. The males do most of the calling, and the louder the sound, the farther it will carry to lure in females... -Discovering Amphibians by John Himmelman

Photo Credit: Down by the Frog Pond
in the Public Domain.

1. Divide the class into two groups, male and female frogs.

2. Pass out balloons to the male frogs.

3. The female frogs scatter throughout the playground, close their eyes and listen for the sound of the male frogs.

4. The the group of frogs with the balloons gather near water, blow up their balloons and start to make sounds by letting the air out of the balloons while stretching the neck of the balloons.

5. As soon as the females hear the males they hop over to the loudest one they can hear, tag that frog.

6. As soon as the male frog is tagged he stops calling.

7. The activity ends went all the frogs are paired and quiet.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tadpole Lenses Spawned by Frog Unit Study

Frog Unit Study The Frog Unit Study has grown so large that it is beginning to grow tadpole lenses.You will find links to my other frog and frog related lenses throughout this page. Each one will have even more ideas and activities to extend your Frog Unit Study. Enjoy your hop back and forth throughout the frog pond of ideas.

This frog unit study has hundreds of ideas to make your study of frogs fun, creative and hands-on. Children will be creating a frog pond in the sensory table, discovering the plants and animals who live in the frog's habitat, learning the anatomy of frogs and how frogs hop and jump. Throughout the unit there are suggestions for books, ideas for teaching reading and writing skills as well as projects to extend their knowledge of social studies, music and art.

Often teachers and homeschoolers find it difficult to connect math with their unit studies. This Frog Unit Studies offers dozens of frog related math activities and games to make a fully integrated unit study.

Frog Tale Newest tadpole lenses that have been spawned by the Frog Unit Study include Industrial Waste in the Frog Pond and The Frog Report.

We have all heard of the pollution that is plaguing our planet. Industrial Waste in the Frog Pond is a short story of A Walk in the Woods to look for tadpoles in vernal pools. Read this story to the children and encourage them to write their own suspenseful stories of their adventures as you progress through your Frog Unit Study.

Frog News The second is a collection of news articles about the disappearance of frogs around the world, the studies scientists are doing to try to understand the situation as well as information on monitoring frogs and the ways you can join in the effort. This is a collection of stories that I have collected since 2008. I use them to help children get a broad perspective on the plight of frogs and other amphibians throughout the world and to see what others are doing to monitor and try to help the situation. Frog these reports we write our own reports of what we learn in our area and publish it in our own classroom or homeschooling newspaper, The Frog Report.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Robin in the Rain was just awarded a Purple Star!

Purple StarRobin in the Rain!

just received a Purple Star !

Thank you Purple Star Squids for the honor of receiving a Purple Star!

Only a few purple stars are given out each week, to exceptional NEW lenses created by Giant Squids. Read all the goods and news about purple stars.

Robin in the Rain!

Robins are a Sign of Spring!
It's springtime and one of the most popular signs of spring is the robin. Robins, with their cheery tweets and bright red breasts stand out against the disappearing snow.

Cheerio, calls the robin as the rain starts to fall.

This lens is a unit study of robins that will get kids reading and writing, adding and investigating robins. Make up a robin dance or recite a robin poem. Put on your robin wings and fly on the wings of learning...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Frame Your Valentine in Adjectives

Get out some construction paper and cut out a lot of hearts. Now ask your child to find a picture of someone that they love. Ask him or her to describe that person or by filling in the blank, "I love your because your are..." . Each adjective that your child uses can then be written on a heart.

Now glue the picture onto the center of the paper and glue all the hearts around it. You might label this picture "I love you because you are..." and send it as a Valentine.

Valentine FrameThis is a fun and easy project for children of many different ages and would be wonderful to do as a homeschooling project.

One year we make Adjective Framed Valentines for each of the members of our family. We posted them around the mirror in the bathroom. As we brushed our teeth we reread each of the adjectives and soon even our preschooler was able to point to the adjectives and read them.

Adjectives: A Valentine's Day Unit Study has many more hands-on learning ideas.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Skip Counting in the Woods

Purple Trillium, Port Huron, Michigan, USA

Purple Trillium, Port Huron, Michigan, USA

Photographic Print

Adams, Claudia

Buy at

One day we were walking in the woods and saw a patch of Trilliums. We used that opportunity to practice Skip Counting. We counted each flower and in the end had discovered how many petals there were.

As you look for flowers this spring, don't forget to practice skip counting.