Interview with Bill Guzules (known as the Godfrogger) about teaching kids about bullfrogs.
Launching today is ROSIE THE RIBETER: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. The book chronicles the story of the female bullfrog who holds the world record for the longest triple-jump. In May, 1986, the frog jockey team of Lee Guidici, Bill Guzules, and Dennis Matasci jumped Rosie. She won with a jump of 21 feet, 5 3/4 inches. Today, we talk with Bill Guzules about the frog jump held at Sutter Elementary School, Santa Clara, CA.
How did you and Lee Guidici get the idea to teach kids about bullfrogs? Why take bullfrogs into the schools?
We started teaching kids back when they did outdoor education program in the unified school district. The kids didn’t know the difference in frog and toad. We hit on a way to do that, because of the Frog Jump. They make a big deal to be sure the kids brought frogs, not toads. At first, we had to talk about the differences. Most kids brought toads instead of frogs.
The Frog Jump evolved from that early outdoor education program. Today, kids can easily list 5-6 differences between frogs and toads.
|Long legs, made for hopping||Shorter legs, made for crawling|
|Smooth skin covered with mucus||Rough, thick skin|
|Eggs in a cluster||Eggs in a chain|
|Lives in water||Lives on land|
|Round, bulging eyes||Football shaped eyes, not bulging|
We started the Frog Jump in 1966, so we’ve had 53 years of jumping frogs at Sutter Elementary School. In fact, we’ve had a big impact on the school. Originally, their mascot was a serpent, but that’s changed to a frog.
Our Frog Jump is a sanctioned preliminary jumping contest because we jump 3-400 frogs. The winner of our jump goes to the Frog Jubilee (Trademarked) straight into the final division. They skip the preliminaries. We currently have an alumni division, too, and the alumni winner also goes into the final.
What do kids like most about bullfrogs?
Kids and frogs go together. At Sutter Elementary, sometimes kindergartners are intimidated by the bullfrogs. They are BIG – as long as 14 inches, from nose to stretched out legs, or 8” nose to tail. The fifth graders help the kindergartners learn about the frogs. Each 5th grader works with 4-5 kindergarten kids. As they grow up, kids look forward to becoming the “big” kids who help out with the frog jump and teaching the younger kids about frogs.
The frog jump lives in the memory of these kids, too. When kids come back, they ask if they still do the frog jump. We’ve also started holding Frog Jump times for junior high kids later in the day, after their school lets out.
We haven’t had any kids that I know of become herpetologists. But lots have gone on to teach science. In fact, a couple former students currently teach in same district they graduated from
What do kids like least about bullfrogs?
When you hold a bullfrog for a while, it dries out. They pee to wet themselves. This helps their skin stay moist, but it also makes them slippery and likely to escape. The frogs pee all over your hands and sometimes it gets on your clothes. That’s about the only thing kids don’t like about the frogs. We always have sanitary wipes available, and we remind them to wash hands before lunch
What’s the most surprising thing about bullfrogs for kids?
Kids are always surprised about how their attitude to the frogs develops. Over the years of frog jumps, they gain so much knowledge about frogs and learn to love them. They start out not touching frogs but end up loving them. They learn how to handle frogs without hurting them. They move from fear to confidence. It’s fun to see kids attend the Frog Jubilee in Angels Camp.
Are you getting ready for the frog jump this year?
Yes. It’s about time to take some dads out to catch frogs for the Sutter Elementary event. After that, we’ll catch frogs for the Frog Jubilee, the third weekend of May.
If a kid wins our contest, they can’t use the same frog. We always return frogs to the same waterway within a day of the frog jump. That means we have to catch more frogs for the Frog Jubilee. We always test the frogs to see if it will jump a winning distance. We’ll set aside a 16-foot-jumper for the winner from Sutter Elementary.
Bill Guzules was classroom teacher for 32 years. 5th, 6th, 4th, 4-6 gifted. He says the kids were so bright that he had to go back and review algebra for the smarter kids. He taught PE, art, speech, reading, social studies, or math. He attended San Jose State college where he started out wanting to teach high school. To help pay for school, though, he drove a bus before and after school. As a bus driver, he learned that he liked the younger kids best. Bill is currently retired and helps babysit his four grand-daughters. He’s currently a car-pool grand-dad three days a week.