Category: Find Out More (Page 1 of 20)

School Closed? Try these quick ideas for school at home

A friend contacted me today because her grandchildren’s school is closed. She knew I had homeschooling experience and asked if I had any resources to recommend. Since many of you might be in the same boat, I thought I’d share here.

First of all, there might be a silver lining. Not going to school is an exciting opportunity to let children learn about topics they are passionate about. Use your youngsters’ interests as a way to step into learning at home and to keep them engaged.


I. Online Lessons:

A great place to start for a traditional learning experience is Khan Academy.  It requires a sign in for record keeping, but is free and you can try it without signing in. I’ve used it extensively and found it to be very good because it progresses in a logical manner. A lot of videos to help explain things step-by-step, too.

Enchanted Learning is a paid service that has been around forever and has everything under the sun.  They are offering it for free to students whose schools are closed, but you have to fill out a form.

PBSKids is a good resource, too. You can sign up for daily tips and activities for learning designed for the recent school closings.

BBC has Bitesize lessons, which has a cool British flair.

Also check out Starfall. It has game-like cartoon illustrations which kids enjoy.

Growing With Science has tons of hands-on science activities. See the growing list.

Great science at The Happy Scientist.

New additions:  A dedicated group of STEAM authors has put together a list of links to many activities at STEAM Team 2020.

Wow! Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators (SCBWI) has put together a giant digital resource list of activity pages and teacher’s guides.  Well worth diving into for some amazingly creative materials.

II. Books

Libraries are wonderful resources — with ebooks available if you don’t want to leave the house. Some libraries stock homeschool curricula. Favorite educational series are The American Girl, Dear America, or My Name is America series for history; The Magic School Bus series for science; The Magic Treehouse series for history or science; and Discover America State by State for geography.

I have lists of great STEM books by topic at Science Books for Kids  See also the list of books to learn about the 50 States at Reading Through the States.

III. Videos

YouTube has a video for anything you can imagine, but you have to know how to search. Examples:

IV. Virtual Museum Tours

List of Links to get you started.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you’d like any further information.

Final note:  Take this as an opportunity to enjoy nature every day. You’ll be glad you did.

Frog and Toad Science Activities for Kids

Toads are fascinating animals that are too often ignored. The new picture book, The Hidden Life of a Toad* by biologist and photographer Doug Wechsler, brings attention to these neglected creatures.

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

The main text concentrates on toad development and life cycle, complete with photographs of toads mating. Back matter is filled with supplemental information, including a glossary, toad facts, suggestions for helping toads, and details about how the author captured the photographs.

For my full review, see Nonfiction Monday blog.


Is it a Frog or Toad?

The terms “frog” and “toad” are not scientifically-based, but are common names. According to frog scientists, all frogs and toads belong to the Order Anura and are called “frogs.” Although many people call the bumpy, dry land-dwelling creatures “toads” and the smooth-skinned, pond-dwelling creatures “frogs,” in reality some species are hard to separate into one or the other group.

This brown, bumpy animal is a toad.

Toad External Anatomy

Have you ever taken a close look at a toad? You may discover some interesting things.

(Illustration based on public domain photo from Visual Hunt)

Starting with the head, prominent features are the bulging eyes. Because they are nocturnal, toads have well-developed night vision. A cool fact is that frogs and toads use their eyes to push food down their throat when swallowing. If you aren’t put off by seeing frogs eating bugs, there’s a video of frogs swallowing from David Attenborough.

Adult toads have lungs and breathe through opening called nares.

Fun fact:  Toads don’t drink water through their mouths, but absorb water through their skin by sitting in it.

Beneath the mouth, male toads have a flexible membrane called a vocal sac. The sac helps amplify the mating calls.

The circular tympanum has a dual function, serving to pass sound vibrations into the ear and also as a protective cover.

Large bumps on the back behind the head, the parotoid glands of toads produce toxic secretions. This is why you should keep pets away from toads and wash your hands after touching them.

A toad has four toes on their forelimbs (front legs) and five toes on the back. Unlike frogs, toads lack webbing between their toes. Both frog and toads are known for their ability to jump with their hind legs.

A .pdf worksheet (with blanks) to download:  toad external anatomy worksheet

Toad Life Cycle

Toads also lay their eggs in water and the eggs hatch into tadpoles.

The dark-colored dots are the frog embryos. They are protected by a gooey jelly-like substance.

The embryos grow into free-swimming tadpoles. They feed and grow, eventually developing legs. Once the tadpoles grow lungs they can move onto land and they are called “toadlets.” During that time, their tail disappears.

Activity: Life Cycle Poster


  • Pictures of frog and toad life stages from books or the internet
  • Art supplies such as markers, crayons, colored pencils, and/or paint
  • Large sheets of paper

Encourage the children to plan and decorate a poster featuring the stages of a frog or toad life cycle. Don’t forget the toadlet stage.

Younger children might benefit from exploring life stage models.

Insect Lore Frog Life Cycle Stages

Where Adult Toads Live

Toads feed on insects and other small creepy crawlies. During the day they rest in moist, shady places. Growing some dense shrubby plants will provide them with cover.

Activity:  Make a Toad House

Instructions for making toad houses are all over the internet. Here are directions for a simple version.


  • Clay flower pot at least six inches in diameter
  • Two potato-sized stones
  • Optional:  Acrylic paints and paint brushes

If you desire, have the children decorate the flower pot with acrylic paint. Acrylic markers work, too. Precautions:  Prior to painting, protect the work surface with a washable or disposable covering.

Once the paint is dry, find a moist, shady location outdoors. Overturn the pot and use the two stones to prop up one side. Leave enough room between so a toad can climb under. Make sure the toad house is stable, so it won’t slip off the stones and trap the toad inside. Burying it slightly on the back side or covering the back side with a small amount of soil may help stabilize it.

Providing a small tray of water nearby will help keep the area moist. Keep curious pets away and check regularly.

Interested in learning more? See our growing list of children’s books about frogs and toads at Science Books for Kids.

Looking Forward to the New Year

It’s the season to look back at the past year and contemplate goals for the upcoming year.

With that in mind, it would be helpful to find out how to improve Growing with Science to make it most useful for you. We would appreciate it if you would take a moment to give us a bit of feedback by answering the following two poll questions. You may select more than one answer for each question.

Thank you!

If you have any other suggestions for topics, features or activities you would like to see in the upcoming year, please leave a comment. You never know where it might lead!

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