Chile has its very own Magic School Bus that is touring far-flung towns across the country, bringing the wonder of learning to communities that lack the access to resources and technology.
The Bus ConCiencia – a play on words meaning both “bus with science” and “conscience bus” – is a mobile laboratory that aims to encourage learning through experimentation, using recycled and easy to obtain materials.
It is the brainchild of Maria Cuéllar, the program director of education at Desafío Levantemos Chile (“Challenge: Lift Up Chile”), a foundation created to rebuild damaged infrastructure in the wake of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake in 2010.
Cuéllar is also a Teachers Without Borders member, whose background in teaching mathematics and physics motivated her to try to improve the quality of scientific education in developing countries.
In 2011, Bus ConCiencia reached 10,000 students and engaged 50 professionals.
“For me, the most important aspect of this project is to show the children, our future generations, that science isn’t something to be feared, but that it’s a way to confront problems and answer questions,” said Dr. Sebastián Bernales, a cellular biologist who has been involved in the Bus ConCiencia.
Children are not “taught” in the workshops, but are instead guided through experiments so they can experience the joy of discovering something for themselves, using scientific methods.
The project is not just aimed at inspiring children, but rather teachers and whole communities as well, through workshops and even movie screenings. The idea is to create a “domino effect” in which children are surrounded by a supportive and stimulating environment.
“What we want to do in these rural schools is to inspire teachers, so they can help children learn about the scientific method, experimentation, different branches of science,” said the project’s executive director, Marcela Colombres, “and to inspire curiosity and open a new world of possibilities.”
The project needs support to continue providing materials, maintain and fuel the bus, pay professionals, and also help fund teachers in rural communities so that they can continue with the experiments into the future.
To contribute see the website.