The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone - Plants: 7-9

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering  involves around a boy, living in the grim and depressing Cementland, who searches amongst the heaping piles of junk for some treasure, something beautiful. Eventually he finds a box and with an instruction to plant it into the earth. This was a most unpromising instruction and nothing happens. The next day he returns to the spot and the thing he planted into the earth has been dug up. So the boy creates a guard monster to prevent anything else happening to his treasure. This is Frog Belly Rat Bone who springs into life and gets to work protecting the treasure from three robbers - a rat, a rabbit and a fruitfly. Slowly but surely transformation happens in Cementland. The robbers join with Frog Belly Rat Bone and the boy to tend to the treasures as they grow. Cementland is now full of colour.

The story of Frog Belly Rat Bone provides a good setting for investigating plants and their benefits to our environment. Children could :

  • identify and describe the functions of different parts of flowering plants: roots, stem/trunk, leaves and flowers
  • explore the requirements of plants for life and growth (air, light, water, nutrients from soil, and room to grow) and how they vary from plant to plant 
  • investigate the way in which water is transported within plants
  • explore the part that flowers play in the life cycle of flowering plants, including pollination, seed formation and seed dispersal.

Key scientific vocabulary: air, nutrients, soil, fertiliser, transported​, life cycle, pollination, seed formation, seed dispersal

Other fiction books with a  similar theme include:

The Hidden Forest – Jeannie Baker

George and Flora’s Secret Garden – Jo Elworthy

George saves the world by lunchtime – Jo Elworthy

Stick Man – Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

Seeds of Change:Wangari’s Gift to the World – Sonia Lynn Sadler

Dandelion Seed – Joseph Anthony

Links and Resources

Plants: roots and shoots

A scheme of work by Hamilton Trust in which children find out about the parts of flowering plants and their functions, and investigate the conditions affecting plant growth and how water is transported in plants.

Ideas are also provided for learning about the stages of plant life cycles, in particular seed formation, dispersal and germination. Many children hold misconceptions believing that plants need the same conditions for seed germination and plant growth, so it is important to distinguish between the two. Whilst some seeds can germinate without soil, they cannot grow to mature plants without a source of nutrients.

publication year
2010 to date

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Bee detectives

This resource by FERA ( Food and environmental research agency) includes some practical ideas such as a Pollination roleplay where ​children model the process of insect pollination. They also are encouraged  to investigate why been numbers are declining.​ This resource includes a short video to find out the job of a scientist at the Bee Unit in Fera. Observing and classifying are highlighted as key skills used in identifying insect pests.

publication year
2010 to date

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Be a bee activity

This outdoor activity is a brilliant kinesthetic way for children to role play pollination.  Be a bee participants forage amongst different species of ‘flowers’ collecting ‘nectar’ with their ‘honeybee’ or ‘bumblebee’ (plastic syringes) before returning to fill the ‘hive’ or ‘nest’. Participants discover that they transfer ‘pollen’ (glitter) between flowers, with fruit produced if the pollen matches. 

From this the children could think about what might happen if we didn't have enough bees to pollinate plants. They could also design their own flower gardens to attract bees and think about how they might improve their school grounds.

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Year 4: Darwin's Collectors

The Great Plant Hunt was created to encourage children to think about plants and to look at the work of Charles Darwin. There are activities for each year group. Throughout the children are encouraged to get outside and look at their local habitats. They can then collect leaves from the plants that they find and store them by pressing.  Darwin made collections  and kept a herbarium - a collection of preserved plant specimens and associated data used for scientific study these collections are vitally important for conservation work. The children could talk about the significance of the national plant and seed collections for conservation.

publication year
2010 to date

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Year 3: Darwin's Thinkers

In these activities the children recreate the thinking walks that Darwin used to do. They also do some practical work to identify the conditions that plants need to grow successfully. They should compare different plants as their requirements vary according to their habitat. Children could then practically investigate which conditions seeds need to germinate. Many seeds will germinate without soil however they need soil in order to grow into mature plants. This would be a good investigation for children to explore.

In addition,  they could think about the garden that Frog Belly Rat Bone grew and think about why the first batch of seeds failed.

publication year
2010 to date

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Education pack: Spring - pollination

Opal have created this really useful pack of outdoor activities, which aim to develop an understanding of the importance of pollination in the wider environment. Designed for use in the school grounds or when visiting a wildlife area, they link to the topics of plants and animals. Children look for signs of spring, evidence of different forms of pollination by wind or animal, they identify parts of a plant and how some plants are attractive to pollinators. The children could use their observations to help them as they create a plant lifecycle poster / drama / dance or model.

publication year
2010 to date

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Fruits, Seeds and Their Dispersal

This is a simple checklist to help children identify the main characteristics of fruits and seeds by making careful observations, drawing them and labelling their important features. They can then group them according to their dispersal mechanism and use this knowledge to construct a simple dichotomous key.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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