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King School

An independent day school educating students PreK-Grade 12

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Upper School Students Breed Endangered Frog
Frog Tank

Students at King School successfully bred an endangered amphibian. The eventful arrival of the three red-banded dart tadpoles took place inside a student-built vivarium that was transformed to reflect their habitat. 

The red-banded dart frog’s scientific name is Oophaga lehmanni and is endemic to a small section of rainforest in the Anchicayá Valley of western Colombia. 

“I just really want to make a difference in the world by helping preserve an endangered species,” said Duncan Baird ’25, President of the King School Frog Conservation Project.

“It's crazy!” said Ellie Wayland ’23, who has seen the project take shape since her freshman year. “It’s so incredible that something like that could happen right here, that we are helping the survival of an entire species right here in the King School science classroom.” 


“The reason we chose this species of frog is that they are considered critically endangered and very challenging to breed in captivity,” said Nick DeFelice, Chair of the Science Department at King. DeFelice is spearheading this conservation initiative as a co-curricular activity that attracts upper school students to apply their passion for conservation through education and action. 

Both the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) have classified the Oophaga lehmanni as “critically endangered.” The species is threatened mainly by habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. 


The King School Frog Conservation Project began four years ago when two King alumni, Nic Perez ’19 and James Hilton ’19, who were seniors at the time, submitted a proposal and received approval for the construction and funding of a vivarium. 

For the past four years, students have been involved in the precise measurements and calculations for the engineering, design, and operation of the tank. They have researched options and created hypotheses for the environments needed to sustain tropical vegetation and amphibians. They have collaborated and designed creative solutions to the obstacles they encountered. As some students graduate, others have joined the project. 


The 250-gallon vivarium produces rain and fog, circulates air, provides ultraviolet light and moonlight, filters water, and houses over 50 species of plants and various insects, fungi, and bacteria that aid in the nutrient cycles of the tank. 

This fall, the work paid off. Students spotted one tadpole at the end of September and two others in early October.

Head of Upper School Marnie Sadlowsky lauded the project, saying: “The success of this project is the result of our students’ curiosity, tenacity, and skills, and the research mindset that our teachers strive to instill in them. This accomplishment is a perfect example of students learning about and working collaboratively to solve real-world problems.”

King’s first mating pair’s lineage came from Tesoros de Colombia, or Colombian Treasures, which is an authorized source of Oophaga lehmanni dedicated to curtailing the trafficking of wild animals by providing a more eco-friendly alternative: specimens bred in captivity.

The students involved in the Frog Conservation Project hope to contribute to the understanding of this endangered frog and partner with research and educational organizations around the country to spread awareness and help preserve this precious and colorful species.

Vivarium Full