Frog Eggs and The Experience of Life

Hawkeye Village, UI archives

After my father returned from service in World War II, my parents moved often with their little girl, often in pursuit either of higher education or earning a living. I don’t really remember our stay in Tulsa (I think that was his Master’s degree) but I have vivid memories of Joplin, where I went to kindergarten and my father taught in a junior college. We lived in a trailer. Then it was to the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where I began elementary school and my father enrolled in his Ph.D. program.  Returning veterans using the GI bill to get an education were housed in huge quonset hut villages.

These were bare-bones living, tin roofs and concrete floors, but it was a heavenly place to be a child. A secure, close-knit village full of families who all had kids of about my age. My father was busy with his academics and my mother was teaching in a rural one-room school, so she left very early in the morning.  I was within walking distance of my elementary school and usually walked by myself.  (There was a bus that I probably used in the winter.)  It must have been the spring of 1951 when I discovered the frog eggs.

Credit Joyce Road Neighborhood blog

On my way to school, I passed a body of water that we called the Lagoon.  One day I noticed an odd gelatinous mass clinging to the side, with little black dots in it. I’m sure that the dots had light hemispheres (the yolk side) though I don’t remember that.  I kept on stopping by every day or so to see what was happening. Gradually the black dots elongated into comma-shaped dots, then grew tails, then became active, then became partially free of the gelatin, then sprouted legs and finally later there were little frogs.

I don’t remember whether someone explained all this to me, but it was a vivid introduction to life coming into being.  I never forgot that and always understood the universe better because of it.  Much later I studied development in college (the amphibian egg is a classic case) and it became even more meaningful.

I would not have had the same experience, however, if I had been walked or driven to school every day by my parents. Instead I was given the freedom to amble at my own pace, taking in the surroundings. (I also remember numerous experiences with spring flowers.)  How many children have this experience now? Seeing the real living beings is much superior to seeing a video or a cartoon. I hope that schools everywhere still give children an opportunity to experience life in its reality.