Mystery of the Malformed Frogs – Student Handout

by Ryan Fisher, 10th Grade, Minnesota New Country School Frog Project

I've always been fascinated with science. So I jumped at the opportunity to get involved with the Minnesota New Country School Frog Project.

The frog project began on a summer nature trip led by Cindy Reinitz. Some students thought they had stepped on a few frogs. The frogs' legs appeared bent. I'm sure everyone must have checked the bottom of their shoes, as they tried to find the unknowing culprit. Soon the students realized that no one had stepped on the frogs. Puzzled by the mystery, everyone spread out, searching for more frogs. Over half of the frogs caught were malformed.

Cindy and her group returned to the pond several times in search of malformed frogs. Once the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency joined Cindy's group. They wanted malformed frogs to study. It was during those trips to the pond that Minnesota New Country School received the most publicity. A few TV stations broadcast live from the pond. Most of the publicity ended quickly. I guess the story of some students making a scientific discovery while sloshing through a pond lost its excitement after no answer was found immediately.

I became involved shortly after school began. Cindy Reinitz organized a meeting to plan the future of the frog project. It was at that meeting that we formed a battle plan of sorts. As we sat around Cindy in her classroom, we decided on how to attack this mystery that even the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency didn't have an answer for.

More trips to the pond were planned, water tests started, and students quickly volunteered to help with the different tasks on hand. From the beginning I worked on tracking down the leads we found. My problem was too much information. You have to be smart in deciding which lead could uncover that last elusive clue that would cause everything to make sense. That job required looking at science and the frogs in a different way. Instead of focusing on the obvious, I had to take the initiative to notice the details that might be overlooked. I had to find solutions on my own.

When others looked for someone to blame, I had to understand the importance of ethics and principles in finding the cure, not only the reason. Working on this project taught me how to do things I didn't think I could do. People probably will forget about the Minnesota New Country School Frog Project. But even as memories fade, one lesson won't be forgotten. A teacher and her students will have learned a lesson they never will forget: that if you try you will succeed, and you can make a difference in your town, your city, or even your country. Because you can't stop someone who thinks they can.

View the background information on this project and the Mystery of the Malformed Frogs lesson plan.

Excerpted from Hands-On Herpetology.

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