999 Frogs Wake Up is a cute little picture book that can become a structure for a science unit study at how animals survive the winter and math lessons practicing hundreds and thousands. 999 frogs wake up then begin to wake their neighbours: a turtle, lizard, ladybugs, and…. one creature they wish they’d left alone!
The book contains large animal pictures against a white background and about 3 – 10 sentences per page. It’s an easy story to read to a group of preschoolers and definitely not meant to be the basis for schoolwork. Yet when I first read it to my kids – and two random toddlers at the library – we interrupted to briefly review the things we knew about the different animals mentioned. We talked about how turtles absorb oxygen through their lips when they’re hibernating under water. We talked about the ladybug we once brought inside thinking it was dead only to have it warm up and come to life. We talked about the lizard in Thelonious Travels who keeps falling asleep whenever he gets cold. We took the book home from the library, and set about learning more about each of the creatures.
We talked about how some frogs survive the winter frozen, and watched the following video:
Since the children recognize glucose as sugar we decided we needed to do some experiments. We boiled mint leaves in milk and then froze two identical size bowls of the minted-milk, with an abundance of sugar added to one bowl. The children could see a definite difference in the hardness of the resulting ice-blocks. Then of course we threw both lumps into the blender, mixed it up into a sort of ice-cream which the kids ate for dessert. Waste not; want not, right?
We watched a video about how to hibernate a pet turtle and compared that to the hibernation story Turtle Spring. Turtle Spring, by Deborah Turney Zagwÿn is a very sweet story about life going on (a brother grows bigger, mom’s under stress, and the seasons pass). The book infuriates me because it involves a child having an outdoor pet turtle that is not native to her area – the same turtle, I believe, that is considered a nuisance in Ontario because people release their pets.
We found a good video about ladybugs and discussed how ladybugs would also have imaginal discs, like butterflies and other creatures that turn into pupae. There are so many fun science topics related to animals and insects in the spring!
The book also became a jumping off point for some math practice. 999 frogs is quite a few frogs. What would happen if there was one more? To help my five year old understand the concept I drew four lily pads on a sheet of paper and got out the base-ten picture block cards. I explained that on the first lily pad frogs can sit by themselves, but the lily pad starts to wobble if it has more than 9 frogs on it. The second lily pad can hold up to 9 stacks of 10 frogs, and the third up to 9 stacks of 100 frogs. The base-ten cards showed frogs as they would be in minecraft – squares. We set the 999 frogs up, then I asked him to demonstrate what happens when the older brother goes for his nap (by removing one one-block card) and what happens when he wakes up to join his brothers. Then the big question: what happens when one more frog joins? We shifted all the frogs till they were together as one block on the 1000 frog lily-pad, and then shifted them all back so we could remove that one youngest frog again.
For my older son the math questions revolved around shortcuts for multiplication. If each of the 999 frogs had two toy teddybears, how many toy teddybears would that be?