Students build bat houses and “Adopt a Species” to aid bats in these troubled times
by MacKenzie Hall, CWF Private Lands Biologist
Teacher Dan Gross and his sixth graders hold up their finished bat houses. © Mackenzie Hall
This April, for the second year in a row, I had the happy task of visiting the sixth graders at Valleyview Middle School in Denville, Morris County. Valleyview students have taken a great interest in bats lately…partly because their school sits a mere 3 miles from Hibernia Mine, New Jersey’s most important known winter den for resident species like the little brown, northern long-eared, and endangered Indiana bats.
Bats have always been a common neighbor in their town. And since White-nose Syndrome appeared two winters ago, Denville residents have literally had a front row seat to the toll it has taken. Many have seen bats flying on cold winter days, searching for food that would not be found, and many have seen the bodies of starved bats on the ground.
Valleyview Middle School has a fantastic science faculty, with teachers like Dan Gross and Chris Bias who aim to give the kids tangible experiences with topics that relate to their own community. They chose to turn the White-nose Syndrome crisis into a learning opportunity:
Why are bats important?
What happens if we lose them?
What can we do to help?
Dan Gross and Principal Dan Finkle receive a certificate of appreciation for their symbolic Indiana bat "adoption." © Jaimie Kovax
The school invited us to come in and teach the students about their local bats and talk about the work we’re doing to help study and protect them. I got to interact with the entire sixth grade, first finding out how much they already knew about bats and then teaching them a whole lot more!
I came back a second day to put the kids to work – we built six bat houses which will be installed in parks and other properties across the region. Everybody (including me) had a lot of fun with the screw guns, hammers, and caulk…and my “no eyes poked out” success streak continues!
The school also made an “Adopt A Species” donation to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation to support our work.
Thank you, Valleyview Middle School!