The Traveling Bus Bringing Conservation to Kids Across Colombia

While Colombia teeters on the edge of losing many of its endemic species forever, an eclectic Chiva bus is bringing environmental education to the country’s rural schools.

The RanaChiva (Spanish for Frog Bus), is just about to complete its first full year of bringing environmental education to kids in rural Colombia who would otherwise not have access to lessons on nature, wildlife, and conservation. Managed by ProAves Foundation, the RanaChiva embarked on its first journey on September 12, 2022, and has since visited 50 schools and over 7,000 students.

Rural schools in Colombia face many challenges and are often lacking in supplies, adequate infrastructure, and a diverse curriculum. Through the RanaChiva, ProAves is providing a solution to the lack of environmental education available to kids in rural areas.

Environmental education is a critical piece of the puzzle in resolving the climate and biodiversity crises of today. In addition to the obvious benefits to the natural world that environmental education creates, it has also been shown to increase overall academic achievement, critical thinking, civic engagement, and personal growth, thus lessening the perpetuation of regional inequalities by reducing early drop-out rates.

The RanaChiva was initially created to save three Critically Endangered species from extinction (the Colombian oak, Lynch’s Colombian tree frog, and the Colombian mountain grackle). While this remains the focus of the program, the project has since grown to incorporate more species and environmental issues into its teachings.

From bumper to bumper, the RanaChiva is covered in vibrant traditional and indigenous artwork. Excited to be receiving a visit from such a colorfully eclectic bus (and its human-sized blow-up grackle on the hood), the local children engage enthusiastically with the RanaChiva and the lessons it brings.

The RanaChiva represents Colombian culture from its roots. We think about the representative symbols of the indigenous culture of Colombia, the different ethnicities, and pre-Columbian designs and incorporate them into the RanaChiva, which has allowed people to identify themselves in it and feel more comfortable participating in the project.

 Isabella Cortés Lara, Creative Director of ProAves Foundation

Once the RanaChiva reaches its destination, sometimes having traveled through treacherous or unpaved roads for hours on end, the fun begins. ProAves conservationists give engaging classes inside the bus using props, a projector screen, and illustrated books on wildlife. Additional activities take place outside of the bus, such as “Jump Like A Frog” (a sac-hopping race) with the goal of making learning about environmentalism fun, engaging, and memorable.

The RanaChiva has been extremely well-received by the members of the local communities it has visited so far. Many of the children have been introduced to animals they had never heard of before, sparking the desire to protect the biodiversity and natural wonders of their country, now and into the future.

Want to help the RanaChiva reach more schools? You can support ProAves by visiting their page and making a donation.