If it was your job to study frogs, what part would you want to learn more about? Why?
According to the article, researchers think the future could very well contain Post-its or envelopes with frog-inspired glues. What other products do you think could be improved with frog-inspired glues?
Do you think it's important for researchers to study things like frog spit? Why or why not?
Do you think it's better for people to unravel all of nature's mysteries, such as how frog spit works, or for some wonder to be left in the world? Why?
- Remind students that in the article they just read, researchers studied frog spit and tongues to learn how these parts help frogs catch bugs. They hope to use what they learn to create new inventions or improve things people already use.
- Point out that this is not unique. Researchers have used what they've learned about animal parts and behaviors to create everything from high-speed bullet trains - shaped after a bird's beak - to energy efficient office buildings - styled after African termite mounds.
- Instruct students to select an animal and make a list of its notable parts and behaviors. Have them pick one part or behavior from their list and conduct research to learn more about it. Encourage them to get into as much detail as they can.
- Have students brainstorm ideas about how they could use the characteristics of that part or behavior to create a new invention or improve something that already exists. Give students time to create a detailed sketch or diagram of a product they could make.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to discover 14 of the most amazing, surprising, disgusting and flat-out weird facts about frogs.
Invite students to watch this Smithsonian Channel video to learn about the Titicaca water frog, a unique inhabitant of the high-altitude, South American lake. Measuring 18 inches long, and with folds of baggy skin, the frog’s entire body is built to extract as much oxygen as possible from the water.
In the mid-1990s, investigators identified a mysterious and seemingly unstoppable killer. Its name? Chytrid. Its prey? Frogs. Since then, the disease has ravaged frog populations worldwide, and despite decades of research there’s still no cure. So, like modern-day Noahs, a group of Smithsonian researchers have resorted to a time-honored plan: building an ark…for amphibians. Invite students to listen to this Smithsonian Sidedoor podcast to learn what Smithsonian researchers are doing in the Panamanian jungle to help some endangered frogs avoid extinction.
Invite students to watch this Smithsonian Channel video to learn how the gliding tree frog uses its webbing as a parachute. It’s a great escape mechanism, especially when being pursued by a deadly boa!
In this Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum lesson, students learn about the Flex Foot Cheetah, a prosthetic leg designed specifically for athletes. They will analyze the relationship between the object and the animal that inspired it, and they will consider the needs of the user as a factor in design. Ultimately, students will brainstorm and prototype their own tool to help them survive within their own environment or everyday life.
In this Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum lesson, students will consider the habitats of animals in their community and around the world. They will create eco-friendly designs and architectures based on the shape, material and overall design of an animal habitat for use in the built environment.
Scientists have discovered that the slimy skin of one frog found in the southern Indian province of Kerala, contains small molecules that can destroy strains of the flu virus—and could contain a whole new class of antiviral drugs for researchers to explore. Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn more.