One of the major overarching science standards for kindergarten is to learn about life cycles. In my district, we teach this through observation of ladybugs, plants, chicks, and tadpoles. The students observe the eggs turn into tadpoles and the tadpoles grow legs and front legs. Once they start to lose their tail, we release them back to the pond where they have more room to move about. This simple science unit teaches the students so much about animal life cycles.
Starting out with a mystery
When I can, I love starting out science units with a mystery to get my students engaged, interested, and curious. When I get the tadpole eggs I put them out for my students and ask them what they think they are. This gives me a great idea of who knows about tadpoles and frog eggs and who doesn’t. Most of my students think they are some kind of water animal – like jelly fish or sea horses. Some students thought they were seeds, because we had just been learning about seeds. And a few students knew that they were frog eggs!
Using Non-Fiction Books like Scientists
After a day or two, once students start to talk with each other and convince each other they are frog eggs, I like to use non-fiction books to help determine what the eggs are. I say that when people want to find answers, they usually use non-fiction books to help them answer their questions. I said, “some of you think that these are frog eggs and I actually have some non-fiction books on frogs. Let’s read one to find out if these really are frog eggs!”
We open the book and start reading. One of the first pages is about the eggs and we discuss how the photographs look exactly like what we have in the classroom – so they must be frog eggs!
Teaching the Frog Life Cycle
While I love my students to be able to observe the life cycle changes as they happen, the tadpole changes are so subtle and seem to happen suddenly after many days/weeks of waiting. So, I like to teach my students about what changes they should be looking for so they will know it when they see it. I read lots of non-fiction books about the life cycle of frogs (and this is perfectly timed with our non-fiction reading unit too!). Then in their journals, they can cut out and order the egg growth, the tadpole growth, and they can label the full life cycle.
Observing the Frog Life Cycle
I keep my tadpoles out where the students can always walk by and observe what’s going on. They keep a close eye out for new legs being formed. In each new stage of the frog’s life, they write and draw what they observe in their frog journal. Having the real thing right in front of them is so much more meaningful than simply reading about the life cycle in a book or watching a video of it. They check the tadpoles every day and watch for growth.
The frog life cycle has so many changes at the start of their life and this makes it an easy animal to observe for changes in the life cycle. The students learn so much more by being able to observe the animal first hand, versus just looking at pictures in books.