“Two weeks ago, the last known Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog died in a biosecure safehouse at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Its distinctive, barklike call was last heard in the wild, as far as we know, in a Panamanian forest in 2007.” J. R. Mendelson III New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: A Frog Dies in Atlanta, and a World Vanishes With It By Joseph R. Mendelson III New York Times
“I was among a group of biologists who discovered this species in 2005 in the canopy of a cloud forest in central Panama. We documented a remarkable behavior never seen in any other animal. The males stayed with their tadpoles in small water-filled cavities high in the trees. These tiny arboreal ponds lacked sufficient food for the tadpoles, so the male would lower himself into the water, allowing his offspring to rasp the skin from his back for nutrition.
In this way, this species was able to perpetuate itself in the only place on the planet it was known to exist, near the town of El Valle de Antón. At the time of our discovery, nearby forests were being cleared for luxury vacation homes and it seemed now only a matter of time before the developers would reach the mountains where these frogs glided from tree to tree, catching air with their extensive toe webbing. But what proved to be a more pernicious threat was also afoot, destroying amphibian populations throughout the forests of Central America: an infectious skin disease called amphibian
We named our discovery after the noted conservationists George B. Rabb, the former director of the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago…Rabbs’ frogs had survived well in safekeeping, but experts at El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center in Panama, Zoo Atlanta and the Atlanta Botanical Garden who were trying to assure the species’ survival never discovered the secrets of how they reproduced. When the last female died in 2009, leaving two males, I had to come to grips with the virtual extinction of the species.
Now we seem to have moved to its actual extinction. The planet is permanently changed. This frog’s ecological role among the animals and plants with which it evolved has been lost, along with whatever other secrets it carried.
The origin of the fungal infection that doomed the Rabbs’ frog remains unknown, though its rise clearly seems linked to the global trade in amphibians…Emerging infectious diseases in wildlife, spread by global trade and transit, represent a real and present danger. Governments must aggressively police that threat with their powers to stop imports of nonnative species that could imperil native wildlife and plants…As a scientist, I like to be right, but in this case, I hope I’m wrong. There is a chance that a population of Rabbs’ frogs remains hidden in the Panamanian forest.”
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NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- A group of biologists discovered this species.
- The frogs were discovered in the canopy of a cloud forest in central Panama.
- These tiny ponds lacked sufficient food for the tadpoles.
- Our plan was to place them in breeding programs.
- No further trace of the frogs have been found despite persistent searches.
- Extinction is one of the realities of the new geologic age we inhabit.
- The government has since become more aggressive in trying to halt the spread of yet another infection.
- Some populations of amphibians now appear to be evolving tolerance to these diseases.
- The demise of so many amphibians is an indication of danger.
- Emerging infectious diseases in wildlife spread by global trade represent a real and present danger.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraphs taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
Amphibians have ___us that ___attempts in___may be ineffective. Indeed, the ___of so many ___was one of our early___of what many ___believe is a ___major extinction now underway.
WORD LIST: demise, conservation, biologists, sixth, shown, indications, reactive,
Grammar Focus: Prepositions
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article. For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.
Prepositions: in, for, of, with, by, on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over, through, from, during, up, off,
The males stayed___ their tadpoles___ small water-filled cavities high___ the trees.
___this way, this species was able___perpetuate itself___ the only place___ the planet it was known___ exist.
Our plan was___place them___breeding programs and reintroduce them___ the wild after the scourge had passed.
The trajectory___this latest threat is familiar.
Amphibians have shown us that reactive attempts___ conservation may be ineffective.
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following topics.
With your group prepare a list describing the ways that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can provide to prevent other species of Amphibians from becoming extinct.
Do you think global warming plays a role in the extinction of various species of amphibians? If yes explain how.
What can people do globally to help preserve native wildlife and plants?
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.