Catching Up, including the answer to our frog questions

Yikes, I realized I’ve neglected my blog; so, here’s a catching up post. We were in Spain for a week & highlights included day-trips to Segovia & finally seeing the spectacular Roman aqueduct. (I included a picture of it in my book Toilets, Bathtubs, Sinks and Sewers: A History of the Bathroom, and was thrilled to finally see it.); and Cordoba, and visits in Madrid to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (where the art is displayed on gorgeous salmon-colored walls as per the instructions of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza) and the Sophia Reina Museum (where I spent considerable time viewing Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and the display of Picasso’s process for creating it).

I’ve also been occupied finishing the semester at Queens College, the last of my five-year term as a Distinguished Lecturer. It was fun sorting through my library and deciding which books to take home and which to give away to my students. What’s next, some of my students asked?
Writing, writing, writing, I replied.

I just wrote two guides for Thanksgiving: The True Story: a Reading Guide and a Classroom Connections Across the Curriculum Guide. Email me if you want copies. I’ll also be posting them on my web site.

On our Sophie/Grammie Day this week, we took a long hike through the woods. Sophie was the scout who kept us on the “red” trail. The path was a maze of tree roots, some big enough for Sophie to use as a balance beam. We arrived at a pond and spent 1/2 hour observing frogs that were sitting close to the shore with their heads and backs above water. They were motionless, even when a gaggle of noisy kids appeared, motionless even when one kid poked a frog with a stick, which, of course, I stopped. (“Grammie,” Sophie whispered, “Why did she do that?” My impulse was to say, “Because she’s mean!” but that did not seem like a helpful explanation for Sophie; instead I said, “Perhaps she hasn’t learned how to treat animals. What do you think?” Sophie thought that she should learn. We were perplexed by the frog’s behavior & I speculated that perhaps they were guarding eggs, but we agreed that we needed to do research.
Part of our research was for me to consulted via email with a dear, long-time friend, Dr. Judy Brook, who is a marine biologist: Here’s her reply: Dear Penny and Sophie, First of all, you two get the Patience Prize for watching a frog for almost 1/2 an hour. That’s what makes a good scientist–being patient and observant.
About your observations and questions: Our northern frogs don’t guard their eggs. There are few tropical frogs that glue their eggs to the mates’ back and let the dads carry around the tadpoles until the young hop off on their own. Our frogs lay their eggs and that’s the last they see or care for their young. I think your frogs were cold. When frogs (and other amphibians) get cold they don’t move. In fact, they can’t move. They have no energy. Do you remember if the frogs were facing or had their backs to the sun?
(They were.) Amphibians and reptiles tend to orient their bodies, when they are cold, to expose the most amount of their skin to the sun. That warms them up. Turtles will even turn their backs to the sun, extend their back legs, fan their toes, and act like solar collectors.

Judy lives in Vermont and she ended with this lovely description: We are in the throughs of spring–apple and cherry trees in full bloom, forget-me-nots making sure we don’t, tulips almost over the hill, and thousands of shades of green on the hillsides. I love it!!!!!!!!!
Me, too!


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