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Ted's teaching tips

At last, the tadpole and sticky bud season has arrived, those two familiar school topics that signal the end of winter. But the life-cycle of the frog throws a fascinating light on life itself, and frogs' eggs are a powerful symbol of spring and regeneration.


What is frogspawn (frogs' eggs encased in a transparent jelly-like substance)? What type of creature is the frog (amphibious, living on land and water; member of the Anura species, 3,500 forms, and its adults have no tails)? What is the difference between a frog and a toad (toads are a form of frog, with rough skins, a drier habitat and they lay their eggs in strings)? What other forms of frog do you know (South American frogs, around Lake Titicaca, 50cm long; Malaysian flying frogs have webbed feet, can glide 12 metres; African tree frogs secrete mucus to protect their eggs; bullfrogs have a loud croak and can jump nine times their own length (how far would that be for you?); midwife toad males carry eggs in a sac round their legs)?


What are the signs of spring (leaves form on trees, blossom appears, birds build nests, life regenerates after winter)? What is spring, technically (the first season of the year, from the vernal equinox to the summer solstice; in the southern hemisphere the same period as our autumn)? What is an equinox (when day and night are equally long, around March 21 and September 21)? How do you feel when spring comes (excited, cheered, indifferent)? Plant some seeds or bulbs (for example, geranium, lettuce; cress is quicker), then watch and record their growth into flowers or vegetables. What do you have to provide to nurture them (food, water, warmth, light)?


Tadpoles are a form of larva - what are larvae (certain creatures which occupy a different habitat during the stage between hatching and adulthood)? Can you think of another example (caterpillars)? Why does this stage exist (allows "dispersal" - tadpoles swim away, caterpillars crawl elsewhere)? How are tadpoles different from adults (more like fish, have gills and tails that wither away)? What term is used to describe the changes (metamorphosis)?


(a) Write an imaginary conversation between these tiny tadpoles ("Fancy a game of five-a-side?","No, I'm not going out there in this weather"); (b) a spaceship lands and the friendly multilingual aliens aboard collect some frogspawn to take home but have no idea what it is. Write an explanation for them.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

Talking points

We put clocks forward an hour in spring, but should we operate on European time?


Closeness to Europe makes it ridiculous to be one hour behind European time. Working hours do not coincide, travel timetables are messy. An extra hour of daylight at the end of the day would cheer us up, especially in winter. Journeys would be safer as there are more accidents in evening than in morning darkness.


We don't have to harmonise everything. Portugal shares our time zone and Finland and Greece are two hours ahead. Double summer time means it is light until late, so children would be reluctant to go to bed. In Scotland, it would be dark until 10am during winter, causing problems for people such as farmers.

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