} CAS: Teachers - Troubled Tree Frogs Scavenger Hunt

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At-Academy Activity: Troubled Tree Frogs Scavenger Hunt


Through this scavenger hunt, students will learn about adaptations that make frogs well suited to survive humid environments by observing examples of frogs in the Rainforest Exhibit.

We recommend using the Dry My Laundry activity along with this scavenger hunt in order to have students start thinking about evaporation.   Though Dry My Laundry does not explicitly discuss evaporation as it relates to frogs, you can discuss why frogs might need to avoid evaporation (see the Teacher Backround tab of this lesson).


Through this scavenger hunt, students will:

  1. learn about adaptations that make frogs well suited to survive humid environments.
  2. observe examples of frogs in the Rainforest Exhibit.


  • Troubled Tree Frogs Scavenger Hunt (one copy per group)
  • Troubled Tree Frogs Chaperone Guide (one for each chaperone)

Note: This activity complements our Troubled Treefrogs Student Lab Program.  The hunt is purposefully designed to be facilitated by chaperones rather than completed by students with pencils.  Why? On occasion, visitors have accidentally dropped personal items into the open-top aquarium at the ground level of the Rainforest, only to be swallowed by our catfish! For the safety of the live animals on exhibit, we ask that personal belongings be stowed away as you wander up the ramp.


  • adaptation:  a structure or behavior that increases an organism’s chance of surviving and reproducing in a particular environment
  • evaporate: to change from liquid water to water vapor



  1. Make copies of the Troubled Tree Frogs Scavenger Hunt (one for each group of students).
  2. Make copies of the Troubled Tree Frogs Chaperone Guide (one for each chaperone).
  3. Go over the scavenger hunt questions as well as the Troubled Tree Frogs Chaperone Guide with your adult chaperones ahead of time and make sure they are familiar with the activity and vocabulary. 


  • Go over the term evaporation with your students, eliciting examples of evaporation in their daily lives.  Tell the students that when they visit the California Academy of Sciences, they will be looking at how evaporation affects frogs. 
  • Clearly define the term adaptations for your students.  Explain that an adaptation is a structure or behavior that helps an organism survive in its environment.  Provide a few examples and ask your students to think of other examples. 
  • Go over the questions on the scavenger hunt with your students and make sure they understand what they will be doing.  Point out that for some questions, students will be looking at specific frogs.  For other questions, they can choose the frog on which to focus. 
  • Remind your students to be careful not to drop or lose their scavenger hunts or other belongings while they are exploring the rainforest.  Be especially cautious around the ramps between each of the floors.  Objects that fall into the water could be harmful to the animals!


  1. Take your students into the Rainforests of the World exhibit, located on the west side of Level 1. 
  2. Orient students and chaperones to the layout of the exhibit.  The exhibit starts on Level 1 and spirals up through the three levels of the Rainforest.  Guests then exit via elevator down to the Lower Level in the Amazon Flooded Forest Exhibit. 
  3. Allow time for students to explore, observe, and answer the questions on the scavenger hunt. All of the frogs on the hunt were on exhibit in the Rainforest dome as of late September 2010.


Discuss the questions that your students answered from their scavenger hunt.  Ask students to share examples of adaptations they found that make frogs well suited to the humid environment of the rainforest. 

California Content Standards

Grade Four

Life Sciences

  • 3b. Students know that in any particular environment, some kinds of plants and animals survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

Grades Five

Life Sciences

  • 2a. Students know many multicellular organisms have specialized structures to support the transport of materials.

Earth Sciences

  • 3b. Students know when liquid water evaporates, it turns into water vapor in the air and can reappear as a liquid when cooled or as a solid if cooled below the freezing point of water.



Many of the potential threats faced by tree frogs arise from their characteristic skin: a thin, scale-less, moist layer that easily exchanges water and gases with the environment.  Sometimes this permeable skin is an advantage.  For example, many frogs have a ‘seat patch’ on their rear end, a special section of tissue that absorbs water particularly well.  So instead of drinking through its mouth, a frog can stick its bum in a pool of water to quench its thirst!

Frog skin also performs an important role in frog respiration.  Because the lungs of an adult frog are hollow sacs, surface area is minimal and the exchange of gases is less efficient than in mammals.  Frogs don’t inhale and exhale regularly like humans, dogs, and cats, but rather take in large gulps on occasion.  The majority of a frog’s gas exchange is instead performed through its moist skin.  Oxygen from the air dissolves in a layer of mucus covering the body, diffuses through the skin into the bloodstream, and travels to the frog’s cells.  In summary, a frog both drinks and breathes through its skin!

The large surface area of the skin relative to a tree frog’s volume is thus helpful for providing the body with plenty of water and oxygen.  However, this skin can become a handicap when the environment is not ideal.  For example, acid rain, water pollution, natural toxins, and fungus, can injure a frog’s sensitive skin, or easily pass into the body.  Water loss due to evaporation from the skin is also a great physiological danger.  Variables such as low humidity, heat, and high wind increase the rate of water evaporation, leaving a frog vulnerable to dehydration.  Without water covering its body, the frog will have a tough time capturing enough oxygen for its cells!


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