Lesson Plan Part 4: Froggie In The Wild

This lesson was developed by Dr. Cynthia Annett, who has a PhD in Zoology from the University of California at Berkeley.

You can find additional resources for this lesson by clicking on these links:

Froggie in the Wild on student website

Amphibian and Reptile species on Friends of the Kaw's Critter Corner website

Habitats created in urban and agricultural areas described in Friends of the Kaw's Stormwater website

Overview: Presentation to students. Students will learn about ecology and conservation biology with a focus on frogs. An emphasis will be placed on the fact that frogs are a vital part of the ecology of the Kansas River, but many species are endangered and losing them from the ecosystem will harm the river. Frogs are key indicators of ecosystem health because of their unique biology, which makes them sensitive to changes in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats.
Grades:  5-7 and 8-12

Kansas State Standards can be downloaded in Word format from our school standards page

  • Students will understand the importance of frogs and other amphibians to the ecosystem.
  • Students will learn to identify suitable habitat for frogs using satellite imagery in Google Earth.
  • Students will learn about the need to reduce water pollution from stormwater runoff in order to maintain healthy populations of frogs.

Materials: A computer with Google Earth installed. You can download Google Earth for free. Google Earth for Educators provides a variety of resources to help you incorporate Google Earth into lessons.

We use Google Earth for this lesson for a number of reasons- the program is downloaded onto your computer and does not make your maps public, which improves online safety for students; it does not require a Google Account which allows younger students to create their own maps without requiring an adult to provide a Google Account; and it contains a tremendous amount of content and advanced tools that will allow students to explore the world. We have found that Middle School students will enthusiastically use Google Earth to learn geography as if it were a video game, and will continue to explore places that they are curious about on their own time. Exposing students to Google Earth allows them to gain experience using a simple form of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). In fact, Google Earth Pro can be used to manipulate GIS files created by more conventional GIS programs (in GIS jargon these are SHP files which can be converted to KML files). This is an important "21st Century" skill for career development.

Students were introduced to Google Earth in Caring for the Kaw: Map Your Connection to the Kaw. Although this lesson is a stand alone lesson with all of the instructions provided in the Froggie in the Wild unit, you can refer students to the Map Your Connection to the Kaw unit for additional activities once they master the basics. You can also find more suggestions for how to use Google Earth in the Map Your Connection Lesson Plan.  For more advanced students we provide additional lessons using Google Earth on our High School curriculum website that can easily be adapted for Middle School students.

Instructor will: Present in a lecture format an explanation of the basic ecology and conservation biology of frogs based on the photographs, outline and illustrations provided in this lesson. The instructor will assist students in downloading and setting up Google Earth on their computer, and help students to gain basic competency using the instructions provided on the Froggie in the Wild web page.

Students will: Students will demonstrate an understanding that frogs and amphibians are an important part of the aquatic ecosystem by describing what changes they would expect if all frogs were lost through extinction, compared to a river with a healthy population of amphibians. They will map out potential frog habitat in their community and be able to discuss whether or not there are healthy places for frogs to live near their schools and homes.

Evaluation: Knowledge of basic ecology will be demonstrated by having students create a Google Earth map of potential frog habitat and explaining their choices of location by providing information in their map markers.

Students will demonstrate: An understanding of how the differences between tadpoles and adult frogs lead to different lifestyles and ecology, and how that affects the river. Students will also gain experience with the use of Geographic Information System technology (Google Earth).

Resources: A set of lecture notes and illustrations are provided below. An introduction to the unit and instructions on how to use Google Earth are provided in the student section of this website. This lesson can be linked to the others in this unit, as well as Caring for the Kaw and our lesson plan on Air Underwater. If it is possible to combine this unit with a field trip, field notebooks and other materials for investigating water pollution are available on our River Science website.

Lecture: Both the Southern Leopard Frog and the Plains Leopard Frog are part of a group of species called American Water Frogs. Members of this "complex" of species are fairly similar to each other and can be found all over North America. This is one of the most common groups of frogs because they can tolerate cold weather by burrowing deep into the mud and adults can survive out of water a long time so they can travel long distances between ponds. The Plains Leopard Frog is particularly good at tolerating hot weather (the maximum body temperature they can survive is 98.6o F). Leopard Frogs mate and lay their eggs in shallow water in pools, ponds, along streams and similar habitats.

Many species in this group are suffering from habitat loss (including loss of wetlands, ground water pumping that dries up streams and pools, and agricultural practices that drain wet habitats); water pollution and parasites (references are in the Development Lesson Plan); and other problems that have caused their populations to decrease (for a list go to the IUCN website). There are many species of Leopard Frogs that only occur in a small area, and these are particularly vulnerable to extinction. The amazing thing is that new species are still being discovered-- that's something pretty rare for vertebrates in general, but especially when the new species is right in the heart of New York City!

What makes a good place for a frog to live? Look for places where there are lots of plants around the water, Leopard Frogs like to hide in plants when there are predators around. Look for a place where there is shallow water for them to lay their eggs, especially if there are smaller pools that are less likely to have predatory fish and Bullfrogs that eat Leopard Frog tadpoles. It would be good if they didn't have to cross a lot of roads, since frogs can get run over by cars when they are out and about on rainy nights. Try to find places where the water isn't too polluted, since chemicals (farm chemicals, effluent from wastewater treatment plants, and excessive amounts of nutrients) can harm developing tadpoles (but muddy water is just fine with Leopard Frogs, so a little natural mud is no problem). It also helps if there are bugs to eat, which is another reason that farm and garden chemicals may be a problem since they are used to kill insects that the frogs need for food.

Activity: The file in the Attachment section at the bottom of the Froggie in the Wild web page (click here to download) contains a Google Earth map pop-up with the instructions embedded as a slideshow. The slideshow is also embedded on the student activity page and as a Google Presentation. The reason we provide the instructions as a kml file that can be opened in Google Earth is to simplify the mechanics of accessing the instructions-- rather than printing them off or toggling between the website and Google Earth, students can view everything within a single window while they work on their maps.

Using Google Earth students will create a simple map that includes a custom map marker that they will place in appropriate frog habitats around their community (small ponds, lakes with shallow shorelines, streams, wetlands).

For more advanced students, the Kansas Herpetological Atlas provides exact locations of frog sightings (usually not actual visual sightings, but the results of listening surveys to identify frog calls during the mating season). We provide links to the Atlas for different frog species found in and along the Kansas River in the unit Name That Frog!

You can tell the students that the unique calls that frogs make, which are studied in the unit Sing Like A Frog, are used by biologists to find the habitats that are used by different species during the breeding season and to estimate population sizes. This is very important information for developing conservation plans for Threatened and Endangered Species; examples can be found on the website of the Great Plains Nature Center or on the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism website.

If you have a Google Account and can use it yourself to help younger students, or are working with students who are 14 and older who have their own Google Accounts, you can encourage students to create their own custom map markers. Since you will have to upload the image to the web, we recommend that this should only be done under supervision if students are 13 or younger (more suggestions about online safety are at Google's Family Safety Center).

The first step is to create a JPG or PNG image file of your marker icon. Make sure the image is not too large, its best to keep it under 100 pixels. You can adjust the size of the marker once it is in Google Earth, but large image files will open slowly so keep the initial image relatively small.

To create a custom marker in Google Earth, you must have someplace to house the image online so that you can obtain a URL for the image location to add to the Google Earth map icon box. You can do this by creating a Google Site, then creating a page with "file cabinet" as the template. In the File Cabinet you can add files by selecting "Add File," clicking "Browse" and then locating your file from within your hard drive on your computer. Once your file is selected, click "Upload." Your file is now successfully hosted on the File Cabinet within your Google Site. (You can also use Google Docs; in Google Docs select "Upload", then in the dialog box select the file from your computer and click "Start Upload.") To obtain the image file URL from your File Cabinet in Google Sites, go to your File Cabinet page and locate your file. In Firefox, right click on the 'Download' hyperlink for that file and select "Copy Link Location.” This will copy the URL of your hosted image file to your clipboard. (If you are using a Mac you can use use Control and Click to "right click.")

Go to your Google Earth. Now that you have URL for your image, you can add it to your Google Earth (this will be in your local program, it will not be in the online Google Earth Gallery). Click on the create an icon button circled in step #1 below, then click on the change icon button circled in step #2 below. Now click on "Add Custom Icon" which gives you a box to enter your URL. Once you have entered the URL your icon should show up in the box and on the map. You can change the size and transparency/opacity of your icon using the dialog box.

Make sure that the students save their maps (instructions are in the student lesson). You may want to stop the students several minutes before the end of the class to make sure they have time to save their maps and submit them for evaluation.


Kuhrt, T. 2000. Lithobates blairi (Online), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 21, 2012 at


A New Species in New York Was Croaking in Plain Sight. By Lisa W. Foderaro. Published: March 13, 2012 New York Times

Save the Frogs student resources