Lifecycle Studies: Hatching Frog Eggs
Here in western Massachusetts, one of Mother Nature’s first ways of letting us know that spring has arrived is the chorus that comes during the evening. Peepers and wood frogs add natural music to the wet, muddy, spring landscape, letting everyone and everything within earshot know that winter is finally over. And soon after the evenings get noisy, amphibians get busy! Not long after emerging, ponds and vernal pools become home to hundreds of eggs.
Springtime outdoor exploration with kids is sure to lead to discoveries of egg masses if you live near still or slow-moving water. There’s a lot to be learned just from examining the egg masses themselves, but there’s even more to be learned by watching the eggs hatch, develop, and grow from a gelatinous cluster into full-sized frogs! Families can schedule regular visits to a pond or vernal pool to watch these future-frogs grow, but it’s much easier to see the small daily changes that occur if the eggs are right inside your home or classroom.
Before bringing home an egg mass, do some research and learn to identify the egg masses you’ve found. Without learning the difference between species, you might bring home the eggs of a spotted salamander instead of a frog! Parents can peruse the University of Maine’s Vernal Pool Indicator Species document, which offers information not only for egg identification but for identifying species that help to determine whether or not a big woodsy puddle is a vernal pool. For kids, try a froggy field guide such as The National Audubon Society First Field Guide: Amphibians or the Petersen First Guide: Reptiles and Amphibians.
Once you’ve found and have properly identified frog eggs, scoop them up and bring them inside! All About Frogs’ How to Raise Tadpoles offers instructions for at-home egg hatching. Essentially, families will need a large glass container (an old aquarium works just fine!), clean water, some rocks and plants, and lots of boiled lettuce in order to keep their eggs, tadpoles, and froglets happy. If properly cared for, frog eggs will hatch and go through all of the stages of their life cycle right before your family’s eyes!
Lifecycle studies can help kids of all ages to understand the cyclical nature of life of all kinds. Older students can compare what they see in your frog tank to the changes that they’ll go through during their own human lives, the changes they see in their pets, and the seasonal changes that other species go through, as well. Younger students’ learning will be centered more around the metamorphosis that the frogs’ tiny bodies go through. At each stage in their development, spend some time together identifying the specific changes that have taken place, and have children guess what might come next! All About Frogs offers another useful resource – Life Cycle of a Frog that adults and older kids can use to learn about what they’re seeing, and younger children can compare their frogs to the ones in this frog lifecycle animation.
Some other ways to expand kids’ learning while watching your frogs develop include keeping a family science journal to document the changes that you see, charting the frogs’ growth on a calendar, and creating a hand-drawn chart of a frog’s life cycle to reference in the future. Just be sure to return your frogs to the pool where you collected your eggs once they have hatched! It’s important to return them back to their home so as to keep the local ecosystem in balance. Happy hatching!