BY HILAIRE BELLOC
Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As ‘Slimy skin,’ or ‘Polly-wog,’
Or likewise ‘Ugly James,’
Or ‘Gape-a-grin,’ or ‘Toad-gone-wrong,’
Or ‘Billy Bandy-knees’:
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.
No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).
Our beloved leopard frog, Mark died yesterday. I was unexpectedly awash with emotion for several reasons. Mark came to us late last fall. He had been raised from a tadpole in Jackson Z's younger brother's preschool class.You can't tell from the photo above, but he had a disability–his legs never properly formed. He still had what looked like the remnants of his tadpole tail. The class brainstormed names and voted to call him Mark. Mark lived in his tank (next to Marvin, our beta fish) and was lovingly cared for by Jackson–fed small crickets & dechlorinated water added to just the right level to allow him to be able to enjoy his life as an amphibian. We loved Mark. Abigail's first Genius Hour idea was to create a prosthetic leg for Mark. Students from other classes would often come in to see Mark.
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Last Sunday I came to school to get some work done and found Mark peering out of his tank–something he had never done so distinctly. I was struck by this. He seemed to be trying to tell me something. He stood poised like this the entire time I was there (several hours). I interpreted it to mean that he had been hearing the crickets in the nearby holding tank that we'll be using for our ecosystems and found them tantalizing. So I plucked one out and put it in his tank.
On Monday Jackson immediately noticed the large cricket in Mark's tank (Mark had not touched it). I admitted giving this science kit cricket to Mark (it was much larger than his usual fare) and plucked it back out to return to our holding tank terrarium. Maybe it wasn't the crickets that inspired this unusual behavior in Mark.
Yesterday morning Jackson came to me to tell me that Mark didn't look right. We looked closer and discovered that sadly, he had died. There were many tears. This little amphibian had been truly loved.
We gently wrapped him in paper towel. Sadie & Teka made a beautiful gravestone. We found a corner of the garden not usually planted. Iris dug a hole, and we laid Mark to rest.
I told the kids that now I realize why Mark had been perched on that rock so intently last Sunday. He was trying to tell me that he was nearing the end of his life, and perhaps trying his express his gratitude for having been taken care of so lovingly and for having been able to spend part of his life with us, listening to our read alouds, our book-a-days, all our discussions, collaborations and explorations. I get it now. RIP, Mark.
*Immense gratitude to the Zentler family for bringing Mark into our lives.