Arts & Humanities
How could the giant frog of Madagascar be so closely related to frogs half a world away?
Before reading, point out (or have students point out) on a world map the locations of Madagascar and South America. You might ask: For how long, do you think, have these two pieces of land stood in their current positions? Accept reasoned responses. Students will come to understand why you asked that odd question after they read this weeks news story.
Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: evidence, resemble, fierce, continents, rethinking, and drifted. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:
Police collected bags of _____ from the scene of the crime. (evidence)
We planned to celebrate Pats birthday on Saturday, but now we are _____ that plan. (rethinking)
The sailboat _____ out into the middle of the lake because Paul forgot to tie it down. (drifted)
I watched as the _____ lion tore at a huge chunk of meat. (fierce)
North America is one of Earths seven _____ . (continents)
You would never know that Sam and Sal are twins because they dont _____ one another very much. (resemble)
Read the News
Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Scientists Discover Giant Frog Fossil.
You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:
Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.
Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.
Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.
Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.
More Facts to Share
You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.
The beastly armored frog, Beelzebufo, was discovered by a team led by paleontologist David Krause of New York's Stony Brook University. This picture of Beelzebufo compares its size to a common pencil and a frog more typical of the type we might see.
The frog fossils found by Krause date back to the late Cretaceous period (about 70 million years ago). They were found in an area where other dinosaur and crocodile fossils have been found.
Beelzebufos name comes from the Greek word for devil, Beelzebub, and the Latin word for toad, bufo (pronounced boo-foe).
The largest living frog, the Goliath frog of West Africa, can reach 7 pounds. Since the Goliath frog and Beelzebufo are both African in nature, one might think they would be distant relatives, but Krause and other frog experts have determined there is no relationship.
Instead, Beelzebufo is more closely related to South American horned frogs, which are found in the rain forests of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. The horned frogs are noted for their large mouths (which explains why they are sometimes called Pacman frogs); and they are known to be voracious eaters of insects, small birds, mammals, lizards, or other frogs.
A widely held theory has it that Australia, Antarctica, South Africa, Madagascar, India, and South America as we know them today all were connected at one time in a continent geologists call Gondwanaland. Beginning about 250 million years ago, chunks of the huge land mass gradually drifted apart. That theory of continent formation, known as Pangaea (pronounced pan-gee-uh), can be seen in this series of maps. As you can see from the maps, the continents were already pretty much formed 65 million years ago, which is the period when scientists believe Beelzebufo roamed Earth.
There are many theories about how that single land mass drifted apart. Some scientists believe the land sat atop molten rock that softened thin parts of Earths crust and caused the land to fracture into bits.
David Krause believes that the frog is proof that some kind of land bridge, a narrow piece of land, might still have connected Africa and South America at the time Beelzebufo lived. Perhaps Antarctica was that bridge, before it drifted off?
Recalling Detail Where did scientists find the fossils of Beelzebufo? (Madagascar)
How big was the frog known as Beelzebufo? (It was the size of a bowling ball. It was 16 inches long and weighed 10 pounds.)
How did Beelzebufo differ from the common frog species of today? (It had a large mouth, sharp teeth, and hard skin [like armor].)
How did Beelzebufo get from Madagascar to South America? (Scientists believe those two landmasses were once part of a larger landmass that drifted apart over millions of years.)
How does Beelzebufo compare in weight to the Goliath frog, the largest frog on Earth today? (Beelzebufo was larger; it weighed 10 pounds compared to the Goliath frogs 7 pounds.)
Think About the News
Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. Accept reasoned responses. Then you might share the following information, which will expand on students understanding:
The Pangaea theory is supported by evidence. For example, marsupials are found both in Australia and South America, which might indicate the lands were connected at one time. Some flowering plants common to Australia, South and Central Africa, South and Central America, India, and Eastern and South-eastern Asia are further evidence. And common pollens that date back 90 million years have been found in fossils on these once-connected land masses.
Science. You might share with students this animation that brings to life the theory known as Pangaea. Have students keep their eyes on the movement of the chunks of land that today are called Australia, Antarctica, South Africa, Madagascar, India, and South America; you might rerun the animation a handful of times so they can keep their eyes on one land area at a time. In addition, you can help students follow the movement of land masses by slowing down the animation, which you can do by clicking repeatedly on the forward and back buttons on the right-hand side.
Geography. Provide students with a world outline map. Have them cut apart the continents and paste them together on a sheet of blue construction paper to illustrate approximately how -- according to the Pangaea theory -- those land areas might have been positioned 250 million years ago.
Language arts. Share with students in grades 3-up this folktale of Madagascar: Why Death Is Like the Banana Tree. After reading aloud the tale, ask If you were given the same choice that God gave the first man and woman, which choice would you have made? Alternate idea: instead of discussing that question, you might have students respond to it in their writing journals.
Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.
Lesson Plan Source
LANGUAGE ARTS: English
GRADES K - 12
NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills
GRADES K - 4
NS.K-4.3 Life Science
NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.K-4.7 History and Nature of Science
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.3 Life Science
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.5-8.7 History and Nature of Science
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.3 Life Science
NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.9-12.7 History and Nature of Science
SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
GRADES K - 12
NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
SOCIAL SCIENCES: World History
GRADES 5 - 12
NSS-WH.5-12.1 The Beginnings of History
See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.
Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
Copyright © 2008 Education World