When Heather Harpole says her first-graders know their frog species, inside and out, she means that literally.

“They’ve dissected frogs already,” Harpole said as she watched parents of Episcopal Lower School first-graders wind their way through the makeshift rainforest their children created as part of a school project called the Frogtarium, which was highlighted during an April 23 program at the school.

Real frogs.

“It’s surprisingly easy to get them off the Internet,” Harpole said.

They also hatched tadpoles in the classroom, she said.

Dissection was just one part of a six-week long project for the students, who also did group research projects on an assigned species of frog, created a mock habitat out of construction paper and glue and created a model of their frog.

Students Jacob Duval, Avery Plum Harris and Simon Hezel researched the gliding tree frog, a rainforest dweller, and not only were they able to discuss the common characteristics and life cycle of the frogs, they also were able to detail the different layers of habitat in the rainforest.

Jacob explained, pointing at his paper replica of the habitat, that the canopy of the rainforest, at the top, has different conditions than the forest floor.

In addition to the rainforest frogs, students studied desert and wetland frog species, which included both common and endangered amphibians.

As parents moved from room to room, they were able to see the work their children had been toiling over for the last six weeks, and far from being grossed out by the experience, they were elated.

“My son said it was the ‘best day ever,’?” Kendyl Worrell laughed, recalling the day her son Oscar came home and told her about dissecting the frog.

“He absolutely loved it.”

The students are incorporating lessons drawn from science, reading and art with the exercise, and it’s always a big hit with students and parents alike, Sarah Savoie, another first-grade teacher said.

“They also dissected owl pellets. We found them on Amazon,” Savoie said. They found and identified bones from shrews, rats and other animals, she said.

First-grade teacher Michelle Zarei said it’s something they all look forward to, and it’s a great learning experience for the students, particularly when it comes to public speaking and group research.