Zoo Questions

Posted by on Mar 25, 2013

Today two giant pandas arrive in Toronto from China. Federal Express are transporting Da Mao and Er Shun from Chengdu in China and have created a lot of hype and public relations around this event. They held a competition for schools in Ontario – the winners get to greet the pandas when they arrive at the airport today.

Our local Little Country School has 24 students up to Grade 3 and they submitted a video of the song they  would sing. They garnered an astonishing 838 votes; the winning school has 1100 students and got over 1000 votes. The children were naturally very disappointed as they put a lot of effort into their submission; of course, learning to deal with disappointment is one of life’s most important lessons and the children are to be congratulated for their efforts.


The Little Country preparing to enter the Fedex Panda contest.

All this publicity got us thinking about the role of zoos in today’s society. Do they play a vital role in conservation and education, or are they yet another example of humans using animals for their own gratification? Most of us will never get the chance to see exotic animals in the wild, but does that justify capturing wild animals and depriving them of their freedom?

At Digital Frog, we believe that people will not care about an environment they do not understand, but are zoos the best way to educate our children and ourselves about the natural world. Will we learn more by lining up to catch a glimpse of Da Mao and Er Shun in Toronto Zoo or by watching a National Geographic video of these animals in the wild?

Humans are depriving these animals of their natural habitat at an alarming rate, so are zoos playing a vital role is saving some animals from extinction? Because giant pandas are so elusive and live in generally inaccessible places, biologists can learn much more by studying them in zoos. According to the National Geographic, it is estimated that only 1000 giant pandas survive in the wild and maybe 100 in zoos. So maybe breeding in captivity is the pandas’ only hope of survival? But how easy will it be to rehabilitate zoo-bred animals?

 PETA’s (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) stance is uncompromising:

“PETA opposes zoos because cages and cramped enclosures at zoos deprive animals of the opportunity to satisfy their most basic needs. The zoo community regards the animals it keeps as commodities, and animals are regularly bought, sold, borrowed, and traded without any regard for established relationships. Zoos breed animals because the presence of babies draws zoo visitors and boosts revenue. But the animals’ fate is often bleak once they outgrow their “cuteness.” And some zoos still import animals from the wild.”

CAZA (Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums) states:

“CAZA member zoos and aquariums are dedicated to the highest standards of animal care.  They nurture, protect and care for more than 100,000 animals representing over 2000 species.   Often these animals are the last representatives of endangered species.”

Fedex published this picture on Facebook this morning with the comment “Da Mao seems to be enjoying the flight and loves the in-flight catering!”


What do YOU think?

A foray into iBook publishing by Digital Frog International, Inc.

Posted by on Jun 25, 2012

The release of Apple’s iBooks author in January triggered a new initiative from the frog ladies. We rushed out and bought an iPad (great excuse :) ) and conceived the LifeScience iPrimer series.

Our Digital Field Trips encompass a wealth of information and are available on Mac and Windows machines. We are planning to break them into modules and convert them to HTML5 so they will run on all platforms, but this is a daunting process and requires more technical skills than the frog ladies possess. So we decided to try our hand at publishing using this state-of-the-art publishing tool. For those of you who have not come across this tool, Apple provides the tool free, but the publisher can only sell it through iTunes.

iBooks Author allows even frog ladies to assemble professional-looking multi-touch iBooks. Of course, due to the limitations of iBooks Author and our limited programming skills, they are not interactive in the way that our other programs are, but they do include the videos, animations and great photographs (plus some new ones) that appeal to nature lovers of all ages.  

It is a powerful tool, and you can incorporate interactive widgets, but as far as we can figure, the widgets have to be created outside of the program. Personally, I did not find it intuitive as I am used to using InDesign, a page layout program that does not second guess intentions in the way that iBooks author does. I know that others do find the interface more intuitive.

The process of publishing this in iTunes was very frustrating. We initially included links to product pages and to a survey with the chance to win a full copy of the interactive program. Apple vetoed this as it smacks of advertising. Then they rejected it because it does not display in portrait mode – even though they provide the option of locking it in landscape mode. (We did overcome that objection). There were a few other valid changes, but they were fed to us one at a time, rather than all at once – a time-consuming and frustrating process.

Nevertheless, our first iBook, Rainforest Interdependencies, is now available in iTunes and has received mixed reviews. The first review in iTunes by Fourisfun is quite positive: “The information and graphics are excellent… would now love to see more interactive components.” (So would we, but we’d have to learn to program – and we are really busy as it is :)

We found another review by Dr CJ which is much more damning – or is it?

Poorly Designed, thumbs down to d-frog

Unlike their awesome software this product is a poor reflection on an excellent company. It reminds me of the early 90′s software craze when the market was flooded with instructional materials that harmed rather then helped. As a professor of instructional design I purchased it in hopes of showing my class an outstanding example, instead I bought a fine example of how not to design a science book. Please go back to the design board and rethink this book or else stay in the software market where your products shine.”

Strangely, we take this as a compliment – even though it is damning – it praises our core products.

So, will we publish more? The next title on Plants will be published soon; after that, we will wait and see how sales go. Of course, at $2.99 we need to sell a lot of books to even break even.

California High School Accepts Challenge to Stop Animal Dissections

Posted by on Apr 25, 2011

Check out this press release from the Animal Welfare Institute.

Washington, D.C. – April 25, 2011 –

Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, CA is the first school to accept a challenge by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) to discontinue animal dissections.

In conjunction with the “Race to Stop Dissections” contest organized by Save the Frogs!, AWI has partnered with Digital Frog International to provide a full Digital Frog 2.5 (voted BEST dissection alternative by eSchool News readers)  license to the first 25 schools that commit to end all animal dissections. To join the race, visit www.awionline.org/stopdissections.

“AWI commends Rancho Verde High School for abandoning its dissection program and using dissection alternatives to teach biology. This type of animal-friendly education is more humane, more effective, environmentally friendly, cost-effective and does not teach students to rationalize the unjustified killing of animals,” said AWI President, Cathy Liss.

The Race to Stop Dissections contest encourages students and teachers to assist worldwide amphibian conservation efforts by getting their schools and school districts to abandon frog dissection programs. One school will win a full license for the Digital Frog 2.5, cash prizes and an opportunity to hear Save the Frogs! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger speak at their school. “Save the Frogs! aims to get every school in the United States to abandon their frog dissection programs by 2014,” said Dr. Kriger. The deadline for entries is December 1, 2011. Contest rules can be found at www.savethefrogs.com/dissections.
Investigations into the capture, transport, warehousing and killing of animals destined for dissection show that the procurement of animals for dissection causes unnecessary suffering and death. Millions of frogs are taken from wetland habitats, piled into sacks and inhumanely killed by immersion in preservative. Frog populations are rapidly disappearing worldwide and the use of frogs for dissection is a contributor in many parts of the world. Frogs play a crucial role in wetland habitats, both as consumers of insects and as food for other species, and their extinctions can wreak havoc on entire ecosystems.

Many students and teachers are questioning the educational value and ethics of using animals. Modern technology can teach students about the biology of living beings and to appreciate and the vital role that all animals play in the natural world. AWI, Save the Frogs! and Digital Frog International invite all students and teachers to participate in the Race to Stop Dissections.


Media Contacts:

Serda Ozbenian, AWI, (202) 446-2144

Dr. Kerry Kriger, Save the Frogs!, (831) 621-6215

Celia Clark, Digital Frog International, 1-800-621-FROG(3764)

Taddy is almost a frog!

Posted by on Apr 11, 2011

Well it has been a while since my last Taddy the Tadpole update. Taddy now has all his/her limbs.The back legs appeared the first week of February and the front ones last weekend, on April 2nd.

The back legs were tiny little nubs that seemed to grow into legs. With the front legs it seemed as if we could see them wiggling around in the chest area and they just popped out as small but fully formed legs. It looked like Taddy was trying to push out an elbow for a few days before the leg appeared.

Just hanging out!

We have been so thrilled to watch the metamorphosis of Taddy and the aquarium has been the perfect setting for that.

The aquarium sits in our kitchen so we see it many times a day and have caught the changes as they happen.We have sparked the interest in friends  and family with Taddy, they all ask how the development is going.

The body shape has changed quite a bit in this last week, the eyes are starting to bulge up on the head and the colouring is changing, spots are appearing. The mouth is getting wider and taking on the frog shaped head. He still has the long tadpole tail.

Taddy is not sure how to use the front legs yet and only just getting the hang of the back ones as they have grown larger and more powerful. He loves to just float in the tank in an upright position.

Taddy & Mr. Bo-Jangles

Mr. Bo-Jangles the goldfish that lives with Taddy has recently started nudging Taddy to get him swimming around. It may not be deliberate but it sure looks it while we are watching.

We should be fine for releasing Taddy into the wild once metamorphisis is complete as spring seems to be here in our part of the world. I’m not sure how much longer we will have Taddy for as he seems to have has own time schedule and not necessarily the same as other frogs. I will let you know when Taddy the Tadpole is Taddy the Frog! Check out our Facebook page for more photos of Taddy.

A world of contrasts

Posted by on Feb 20, 2011

I (Celia) have just returned from a fascinating ten day trip to Florida and Nicaragua with Pete (my husband). Because we packed so much into those ten days it seemed more like a three week trip. The first contrast of course was the temperature (minus 20° C in Toronto and plus 30°C in Nicaragua).

After visiting some dear friends in Sarasota, we headed off to Nicaragua. The airport in Managua was well organized and we were whisked off in a shuttle to our hotel for the first night even though it was less than a five minute walk! After a refreshing pina colada by the pool, we slept well and met our shuttle driver for the two hour drive to San Juan del Sur. We were saddened by the extremely poor living  conditions that we saw as left Managua and I could not help thinking that Haiti was like that BEFORE the earthquake. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, but in much better shape than Haiti. The average Nicaraguan earns around $2.00 a day.

A Nicaraguan house

A Nicaraguan house

On arrival in San Juan del Sur we were welcomed by the hotel manager and set out to explore the small fishing town – we watched the sun go down as we enjoyed a delicious fish dinner in a restaurant on the beach (amazingly ALL hotels and restaurants offer free internet access).

Sunset in San Juan del Sur

Sunset in San Juan del Sur

One of our reasons for visiting Nicaragua was to take school supplies for the small village of El Carizal where our local Rotary club is supporting a local jam making cooperative. Our first meeting was with our club champion , Richard, who has bought land down there, and Lori, a local American volunteer who is helping to coordinate the project. As Lori works as the concierge at Pelican Eyes, a local resort., we decided to eat lunch there – hardly the luxury setting we were expecting!

Pelican Eyes Resort

Pelican Eyes Resort

The next day we met with the English teacher to deliver the school supplies, then took a taxi to the small village where we were supposed to meet up with our colleagues – unfortunately we missed them and were stuck there with no transport and no cell phone that worked in Nicaragua! What do do? So, in the searing heat we set out to walk to the beach where the last Survivor series had been shot (we understood there was now a small restaurant there and assumed they would have a phone to call a taxi). Several Nicaraguans seemed concerned about the folly of this venture (with our poor Spanish we understood it was only one kilometer to the beach – in fact we think it was more like four kilometers). We splashed through several stream crossings (very refreshing), heard howler monkeys (which we could identify from the video in The Digital Field Trip to The Rainforest ) and finally, exhausted and extremely hot, arrived at this beautiful beach, only to learn that we were probably the only gringos to have walked that route without being robbed!

Playa Hermosa aka Survivor beach

Playa Hermosa aka Survivor beach

The next day, we spent time with the children using some of the school supplies we had taken. We learned that making name plates with foam letters on a windy day in a Nicaraguan school is somewhat challenging!

School in El Carizal

On our return to Miami, we ran a workshop for teachers on digital vs. real dissection – what a contrast to school in Nicaragua!

Miami workshop

One of the exercises that we did was to assign metrics to various importance factors such as cost, learning retention etc. then assign a score to Digital Dissection, Wet Lab Dissection and Using Both Digital and Wet Labs to teach anatomy and physiology. We fully expected that using both digital and wet labs  would come out on top. Much to our amazement, the twenty seven teachers who attended the workshop concluded that, out of a possible score of 137, Digital Dissection scored 120, Wet Labs scored 65 and using both scored 98. YAY for Digital!

The Tardy Tadpole Update

Posted by on Feb 10, 2011

Well it is well past update time for Taddy the Tardy Tadpole! As you may remember Taddy came to live with us in September  thanks to our granddaughter and her fishing net. Taddy has grown very large and his length has increased to 10.5 cm living on algae and pond fish food. He is comical to watch eat, he enjoys the food his goldfish friend is fed, the floating fish pellets for ponds (which is where they live in the warmer weather). Taddy grabs a pellet and looks like he is sucking it like a jaw breaker we all ate as kids. He pops it out of his mouth and then grabs it in again and sucks it. He will eat lettuce or spinach.We were getting very used to Taddy as a tadpole who was only getting fatter and longer and not becoming frog like in any way.He has a large round body and an extremely long tail.

About a week ago we noticed tiny back legs on Taddy he is starting to change into the frog he will become.
My research shows that the next stage should take 9-12 weeks and I sure hope it is the later as we need the weather to warm up and snow to thaw before Taddy can be released.

Check out The Digital Frog‘s Ecology section to learn about the frogs life cycle or visit our website here and check out the related frog links.

We have been thinking about the tank we may have to create to keep Taddy should the weather be too cold for survival when metamorphosis is complete. We need to provide a  wet and dry environment for Taddy with some room to swim around. For now the aquarium with his friend Mr. Bo-jangles is just fine. I will let you know in a few weeks what is happening with Taddy so check back.

Is dependency in nature cruel?

Posted by on Dec 15, 2010

Well here is another story from our home and our interactions with nature and animals. This was an amazing encounter and shows the crueler but necessary side of nature.

We have  a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) living in our area and often see it hunting in the fields near the house. Seeing a Hawk in flight is an incredible sight. I love to stand and watch the hawk have fun with the air currents, soaring and gliding with an occasional dip to the ground. When soaring it will typically travels from 20 to 40 mph (64 km/h) and can exceed 120 mph (190 km/h) when diving.

The large barn on our property is no longer for farm use but offers a refuge for birds and rodents year round. Our free-range chickens like to use the barn so it is a regular spot to check for eggs. Yesterday morning our check turned up more than eggs!

The Red-tailed Hawk is an opportunistic feeder and a carnivore. It dines mainly on small mammals but will eat birds and reptiles. Prey varies between regions and seasons but usually centers on rodents which make up about 85% of the hawk’s diet. The Red-tailed Hawk primarily hunts from an elevated perch site, swooping down to seize prey, catching birds while flying, or pursuing prey on the ground from a low flight.

The Red-tailed Hawk was spotted  in the barn dining on an unfortunate Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) and was so intent on the meal that it didn’t seem to mind the quiet observation or a few photos being snapped. I have carried my camera on many occasions trying to get shots of the hawk as it sits on a post or tree on the laneway, but it always disappears before the lens cover is off. This opportunity was an amazing one for photos as the bird was so intent on its meal that it would not leave its perch and risk losing the meal it had worked hard to catch. The hawk was vulnerable while eating, but a risk it needed to take for it’s own survival.

This was fascinating to observe and sad at the same time. Nature has a cruel side with all the dependencies between species. The pigeon had to give up its life to help the hawk survive the cold winter ahead. This was possibly the same pigeon one of my hens had been picking (or pecking) on last week when she decided the barn wasn’t big enough for both of them.

The interdependencies of organisms is a fascinating subject and one we all try to teach our children to help them learn a respect for all things in nature. They learn that even the tiniest bug can help another organism survive. Visit The Frogger Club on our website for a printable version of the dependency web games from The Digital Field Trip to The Rainforest and The Digital Field Trip to The Wetlands to help reinforce this learning with your children or students. Check back for some video footage of this as soon as we can get it web ready.

Taddy the Tardy Tadpole

Posted by on Nov 04, 2010

Six weeks ago my granddaughter Ella came to visit me at Digital Frog headquarters. Young kids love to visit our  fish and frog pond – Ella is not quite four and was very interested in seeing the fish. With net in hand off to the pond we went, as the little kids have never managed to catch anything I didn’t worry about the net! Well Ella was quicker than most and with one scoop up came a small goldfish and a rather large tadpole.

My first thought was how late this tadpole was, it was late September already and we live in Canada!

We are a science loving family so of course we decided to take the new friends home and set up an aquarium to watch our tadpole develop. So home we went with Taddy the Tadpole and Mr. Bo-jangles the fish (yes Ella named them). I explained to Ella how Taddy would turn into a frog and that we could watch, on this note she pulled up her stool and stared into the tank and said okay I’m watching! I tried to explain how it would take longer than that for him to change.

The life cycle video in The Digital Frog ecology section gave Ella an idea of what would happen. I assumed in 5-6 weeks we would have a frog to care for.

We have been watching now for 6 weeks and there has been absolutely no change in Taddy. He swims around happily in the tank eating algae from the plants and hanging out with his fish friend. With all the environmental threats to frogs these days, we figured Taddy was a mutant tadpole who was going to stay a tadpole all his life (we only call him a boy out of habit not because we know how to sex a tadpole). I have since learnt a lot about tadpoles!

Research has shown me that tadpoles hatched late in the season will sometimes take until the following spring to metamorphosize, they like to eat cooked lettuce, and certain breeds of frogs can take 8-9 months to make the transition to frog. I have started tracking Taddy’s size to see if he is in fact making any changes Taddy is 7.5 cm long and 1.75 cm wide at his widest spot. He seems healthy and happy and boy can he dart away fast when trying to catch him for tank cleaning.

Please give me tips on successful tadpole raising if you have any and i will keep the fans of Taddy the Tadpole informed of his progress (or lack of) . Ella and I would love to know from anyone who knows about frogs what kind of frog he will become if that can be identified  from looking at him as a tadpole.

A Blog about Blogs

Posted by on Oct 20, 2010

We are remiss in writing blogs (too many other things that eat away at our time), so we sent out 100 copies of our Digital Field Trip series – and asked Homeschoolers to blog about them.

WOW – were we ever impressed at the creativity, insights and writing skills  of these busy people who are schooling their children at home.

We also learned that we are not doing a very good job of ensuring users know about ALL of the features available – many of those with younger children wished that the text could be read aloud – it CAN (in whatever “voice” your computer uses) -  by simply pressing R . Some complained the window was too small on high resolution monitors and could not figure out how to change to full screen mode. It CAN be changed under Preferences. This is probably because we authored the Quick Tour before those features were available.

Opinions were overwhelmingly positive – although many pointed out that these are secular programs and do not mention creationism.

We are working on providing links to many of these blogs, but in the meantime will quote a few of our favorites in our own blog.

This one is a quote from Elizabeth in New Zealand:

Our opinion:


Definitions a-plenty : Nearly every word you will read is well defined. Not only that, but some words even have a sound bite icon and you can hear how it’s pronounced.


Informative: There is an abundant amount of information on each section. As you go through the field trip you find posts with various information about the plant and animal life in that region. Different concepts are explained in further detail. Animals are discussed in regard to life cycle, habitat, size, food source and where they are found. We have created mind maps around the animals we’ve encountered. Not only do you get what is on the field trip, but when you go into the file you will also find a pdf file with worksheets related to the specific field trip.

You can download a Printable topic summary of the topics that are being discussed in the field trips by following the following link:



Graphics galore: The graphics on the CD are amazing. There are various pictures of the same animals from different angles. Different types of rainforests are explained with animation to go with it.


Interesting! The information is all given in such a way that it’s not boring and neither does it ‘talk down’ to the child. Older kids would be able to read it by themselves, but even younger kids (early elementary) would enjoy this when Mum reads it to them. I found it amazing and enjoyed every minute of it.


Time… flies when you’re having fun. It’s easy for an hour and a bit to fly by when we’ve gone through the next part of the rainforest. It is advisable to take it slow as there is so much amazing information in it.


Affordable – These field trips can be bought separately at US$60 for a home license or all three at US$125. I think that for the amount of information that is available, the price is not steep. See the full price list for all the products.


Links page: The website has links to various resources related to the field trip series:



Frogger Club, Frog Blog and FaceBook: you can join the Frogger club for free and get things like extra worksheet, crosswords and video clips. The club is still ‘new’ so I’m sure that this will expand. Apart from the club, you can follow the FROG blog HERE, Facebook HERE.


RAINFOREST (Wetlands, Deserts) is the region we focussed on (it was a unanimous decision) and as I mentioned before we all love it! We will camp in the rainforest for a while yet before moving on to the Desert and Wetland areas. I’m sure it will keep us busy for a while.


Outstanding video footage. Yes, there are definitions, yes there are animated graphics, yes there are amazing photographs and yes, there are even video clips!



Great product! Honestly, do yourself a favor and have a look at the downloadable demo – the ‘try-before-you-buy’ option! I love when this choice is given…to me it says that they are so certain of the quality of their product that they are happy to make a portion available, knowing people will love it. The demo is available by following this link:


You can read Elizabeth’s blog here:


Thank You Elizabeth.

Wetlands animal fact file: The beaver

Posted by on May 14, 2010

Our educational software is chock-full of information on organisms from around the world. In each Digital Field Trip we select representative organisms, provide information on each, then incorporate them into a major activity. With the beaver, it’s a Bog Food Web Game. (You can download a paper version of this activity by joining our Frogger Club.)

This is the beaver information, taken from The Digital Field Trip to The Wetlands program.



beaverBeavers are one of the largest rodents in the western hemisphere and can weigh up to sixty pounds. Their hind feet, webbed like a duck’s, make them powerful swimmers. A thick underlayer of hair keeps them warm and dry. All rodents have front teeth that never stop growing.

Hunting beavers for their fine furs has led to extinction in some areas. They now have protected status in many countries.



Beavers spend most of their time in water. They can stay underwater for up to fifteen minutes.

They build a dome-shaped lodge to live in, using mud, rocks and tree branches. The lodge has entrances underwater, an internal platform above water level, and a place to store food underwater.

Beavers exert a great influence on their habitat by damming streams and creating ponds.



Beavers work hard to dam streams, thus creating ponds that won’t freeze completely during the winter. They are skillful builders; if they run out of nearby wood for the dam, they build channels to float wood into the pond from further away! They create spillways in the dam, enlarge them to cope with heavy rain and build them up again in dry periods.

Beavers stay in the lodge for most of the day, then feed at dusk.


Life Cycle

Beavers give birth to 3-5 young in the Spring. The young are born with hair and their eyes open; they stay with their parents for up to two years.


Food Source

Beavers eat water plants and the bark and leaves of trees.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Castoridae
Genus: Castor



Beavers are found in these areas:

Beaver range map


Suggested Links