Daylight lingers longer, and the geese fly north in a steady stream overhead. Most of us are thankful for the slow progression from winter to spring. As we embrace longer days, sunshine, and spring bulbs rising through the soil, this season is a perfect opportunity to help our kids connect with nature.
Providing children with opportunities to interact with wild creatures in safe ways is one of the best ways to spark life-long interests in the natural world. A frog egg project is a great place to start, and even the least savvy naturalist can pull this off.
I remember multiple frog egg projects throughout my elementary school years. Tanks, bowls, and clear glass containers filled with slimy black eggs sat on classroom windowsills for months. The anticipation of dozens of pet frogs for the classroom was almost more than we could stand. Sadly, these projects seldom produced living frogs.
What they did yield was excitement and enthusiasm in students who were otherwise more interested in kickball than science. Attempting to nurture tiny eggs into tadpoles can stir the same passion in your children. I know this because I am the proud mother of a two-year-old, a six-year-old, and two bullfrogs. We set the frogs free when autumn hit, but I’ll forever claim them as my own: a science experiment that actually succeeded. The best part of the experiment was the enthusiasm sparked in my children.
To make this work, start by searching local ponds and swamps in early to mid-spring. By the time the air is consistently in the eighties, most of these little guys have either been eaten or turned into frogs and escaped. The best places to look are bogs and swamps in woodlands. Even puddles on walking trails can hold frog eggs. We most often find frog eggs in small ponds nestled among trees or around the edges of the local park ponds. Once you locate the eggs, collect a softball-sized specimen and place it in a clear container. Be sure that you have at least four parts water to one part eggs.
An aquarium or large clear container in partial sunlight is ideal. Our family raised our eggs on the deck. Too much sun will heat the water to an excessive temperature, and too little will prohibit growth. It’s best to put the container outside to mimic the natural environment as much as possible. It’s also advantageous to leave the container open, allowing mosquitoes to lay eggs in the water. These eggs will serve as food.
The black dots in the center of the eggs will slowly begin to look like tadpoles. This can take four to eight weeks from the time of collection. Once they start moving and break free from the egg sack, it’s important to feed them. We used a small amount of fish food and cooked lettuce. About a pinch per day was enough. Without food, the tadpoles will become carnivorous and begin to feed on each other.
The progression from tadpoles to frogs can literally take months. Our bullfrog tadpoles took five months to mature into frogs. The transformation was captivating. As promised, legs emerged from seemingly smooth skin and tails disappeared. As the tadpoles grew legs, we switched from fish food and lettuce to reptile food from the local pet store.
Once they had legs, it was important to put a floating log in the tank so the frogs could climb out of the water. When their gills give way to lungs, they need a way to get out of the water and rest. We fed the frogs reptile food and enjoyed them for several months, at which point we set them free in the same pond where we had collected the eggs months earlier.
The project cultivated a deep interest in nature in both of our children. As soon as the weather broke this spring, I had to hold them back from jumping in the swamp in search of frog eggs. We look forward to another year of raising tadpoles and watching them develop. This project is well worth the effort involved.