Posted Aug 27, 2013
Last year I was teaching a class of five-year-olds, and a colleague offered us tadpoles. I thought of all the educational benefits, and the fun of having animals in the classroom. I figured it would be fairly simple, like keeping fish.
So the first thing I learned is that transporting a tank with one frog and one large tadpole is quite hard work and probably shouldn't be tried if you can avoid it. My colleague had filled the tank to about a third with water and a few branches sort of sticking out.
The second thing I learned, after consulting with a parent of one of my children who actually breeds frogs, is that they don't want a whole bunch of water with a few branches sticking out. Frogs want a little water, sure, but also dirt, rocks, plants and sticks to sit on, hide behind, and occasionally float in. I used a shallow plastic container and buried it in dirt inside the tank so the edge was roughly level with the dirt.
We started with one frog and one tadpole (gradually lowering the water level for the frog while keeping enough for the tadpole was a fun challenge) and not long after the tadpole had fully changed into a frog we had a terrible tragedy: Mr Bojangles suffered an accident where he was squished under the tank lid. He had been sitting in the top corner on a little ledge and a child had lifted the lid -- bad move -- and when the lid went down Mr Bojangles' leg was under it. I could see him sitting in the corner and didn't want to open the lid and have him escape, not realizing his leg was stuck, and so he slowly starved. Lesson: if your frog stays in the same place for more than 24 hours, he may be trapped there and need your assistance.
After we gave Mr Bojangles a dignified funeral we focused all our love and attention on Larry Long Legs, a beautiful emerald-green frog about two inches long from nose to tail. He was a fairly active frog (I say was because I no longer work there but left Larry behind) who frequently leaped madly across the tank in search of a nonexistent fly.
My class doted on Larry and we would all stare, hypnotized, at the tank, waiting for him to make a move. Unfortunately Larry was most active in the late afternoons and evenings. Our frog-breeding parent would bring live flies in at the end of school and so he would be busiest when the kids weren't around to see. Third thing I learned: feed your frog at a time when you can sit and watch him hunt. It's fantastic and mesmerizing.
I can't speak to other breeds of frog but our green bells frog was great for our class of five year olds. His presence kicked off a storm of scientific exploration and inspired poems and songs. I would recommend that particular breed of frog for ease of care, visibility (especially if you have kids), and cost of maintenance. In winter I would buy a container of fly larvae from the pet store for about $15 and it would last about three weeks as flies hatched, left the container and were promptly caught and eaten. If you have a compost heap, you can set up a fly trap above it and catch your own for most of the year.