Toad Projects

Do you live near a park, forest preserve, or other area where you can find toads? Here are some projects you can do to learn more about them:

  • Photography: For this project you will need:
    • Camera
    • Film
    If you have a camera that can take close-up photos, you can take wonderful pictures. Try to make the settings so you don't have to use flash. If your camera can't take good pictures in a shady forest without flash, only take one or two photos each day. A bright flash can bother toads.

  • Raise toad babies: For this project you will need:
    • A large jar
    • Aquarium
    • Aquatic plants
    • Leaves of spinach or high quality fish food to feed the tadpoles

    American Toad tadpole
    ***photo credit here***

  • When you find a string of toad eggs near the edge of a pond or lake, first fill a big jar with water from the same pond. Also make sure you set up your aquarium with aquatic plants from the lake. If you're going to use some tapwater to fill the aquarium, make sure it sits out for a couple of days first so the chlorine has time to evaporate. The best water would be from the pond, and making it at least half full of pond water is better than making it all full of tapwater.

    Get the aquarium ready before you go out to catch your tadpoles. You can very gently and carefully collect just three or four eggs from a string of toad eggs and put them in the jar. Or you can use a net to catch the hatched tadpoles. How will you know if they are frog or toad tadpoles? It's very tricky, but you can learn how to do it at the US Geological Survey's Tadpole Identification Website. Make sure you look first at the tadpole drawings to be sure you know how to find all the features on their bodies. If you can't tell what they are, don't worry--it will be fun discovering what they grow into as they develop!

    You'll need to provide food and safe water for the tadpoles. The Missouri Department of Conservation gives some helpful pointers for raising healthy tadpoles into frogs and toads.

    How long does it take for eggs to hatch? You probably won't know exactly when they were laid, and aquarium water in a house is warmer than water outdoors in spring, so yours may hatch much more quickly than books say they should. Observe your tadpoles closely every day. Record your observations in your field notebook. If you observe interesting behaviors, let us know about them!

  • **Need photo of Julie's toad in toad house here!**
    Provide toad housing: You can purchase a toad house at some garden and bird feeding stores. Or you can set a broken flower pot upside down, making sure there's an entrance large enough for a toad to easily hop under. Set it in a shady area where you've seen toads.
  • Measure a toad's wandering distance: For this project you will need:
    • String or tape measure
    • Field notebook

    If a toad moves into your toad house, you'll have lots of opportunities to study it. If you don't have a toad house, but find a toad using a natural shelter, you can do this project, too. Every time you visit your toad, measure how far it is from its house or shelter. You can use a tape measure, or just carry a long string in your pocket. Set one end on the toad house (if you have a partner, s/he can hold it there) and stretch the measure or string to just above the toad. You can measure the string when you get back indoors. Make sure that you write down the distance in your field notebook. After you have several measurements, you can figure out how far your toad usually roams outside its shelter.

  • Map a toad's home range: You will need:
    • Graph paper
    • Compass (the kind for drawing circles)
    • Compass (the kind for telling directions)
    • A 1-meter length of string
    • A 7-meter length of string
    • Clipboard
    • 15 pencils
    • Ruler or tape measure

    If a toad moves into your toad house, or if you find a toad's natural shelter, map its home range. It's best to make two different maps--one with a lot of detail covering a small area, and one with less detail but covering a bigger area. The more important map is the detailed one. Before you go out to make it, take a piece of graph paper and, using a compass, make a circle that will represent a circle with a 1-meter radius. Put the graph paper on a clipboard, and head out to the field with 10 or 15 pencils, a string one-meter long, a ruler or tape measure, and a ball of kite string. Push each pencil (except the one you're using to write on your map!) into the ground exactly one meter from the toad house or shelter, making a circle. Then make a circle with the kite string, held in place by the circle of pencils. Use a ruler or tape measure to accurately mark every plant, puddle, stump, fallen log, rock, and other object in your toad's little world onto the detailed map. Every time you visit your toad, mark on the map precisely where the toad is that time. When your toad wanders outside of the little circle, you'll need a bigger map. Draw that one using another piece of graph paper, with the home territory marked in the middle. You or your teacher can figure out the best scale for this map, depending on how far your toad wanders.

  • Keep a toad diary: You will need
    • A field notebook
    • A cooperative toad

    If you know where a toad lives, keep track of what it's doing day after day. If the toad lives near school, different students can add diary entries to a class field notebook. If you observe it carefully, you may note how it finds its food, how often it eats, what sights and sounds make it hide, how long it takes after a perceived danger passes by before it comes out again, and other interesting behaviors. Share your discoveries with us!

  • Tame a toad: You will need
    • A supply of mealworms
    • A cooperative toad
If you know where a toad lives, bring it a few mealworms every time you visit. If it takes them, you can watch the cool way it eats. Does it learn to associate your visits with food? How can you tell?
  • Read a toad book! Find books about toads. The non-fiction section of your library will have books about how toads live. And the fiction section will have plenty of books, too. Many writers find toads fascinating, with their interesting bodies and curious habits. So you should be able to find such books as:
    • The "Frog and Toad" stories, by Arnold Lobel
    • The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
    • A Toad for Tuesday, by Russell E. Erickson
    • That Toad Is Mine, by Barbara Shook Hazen
    • The "Commander Toad" stories, by Jane Yolen