Conserve Wildlife Blog

Union Township students go batty!

December 16th, 2010

Wildlife Preservation Club members build bat houses for NJ bats

by Maria Grace, Education & Outreach Manager

On Tuesday, December 14th, I had the pleasure of working with over 60 middle school students from 2 Union Township (Union County) schools, Burnet Middle School and Kawameeh Middle School.  Larry Petras, Advisor of the club, received a grant to educate the club members about bats and build and install bat houses around the township.  Mr. Petras  reached out to Conserve Wildlife Foundation to help fulfill his and his students wishes of improving bat habitat throughout their community.   So with wood, caulk, screws, and power drills in tow, I arrived at Burnet Middle School to assist the students in building bat houses that will be placed around the township to bolster the bat population.

First, I gave a presentation about bats – their natural history, habitat requirements, and importance to the environment.  Afterwards, the over 60 students were broken into groups and given the task of building 3 chambered maternity bat houses, capable of holding of approximately 80 bats.

I have run many bat house building workshops over the last couple of years and I always describe the scene as “controlled chaos.”  Enthusiastic kids with power tools, staple guns, and caulking guns, can make any educator a bit tense.   And to top it all off, this group was the largest group that I had ever done a bat house buildilng workshop for – over 60 middle schoolers! (we usually top out at about 25 students for building 5 bat houses.)  But Mr.Petras assured me that the students would be well-behaved and respectful of the work that would be completed.

The kids moved through the task with shining colors – I was so completely impressed with how the students worked together and allowed each other to help build the houses.  They made sure everyone had a turn working with the tools.  Those that knew how to use a caulking gun or a power drill, taught those who did not.  The satisfaction of building something from a pile of wood was evident in the buzz that hummed throughout the room.

The end result was 5 bat houses capable of holding 400 or more bats.  With plans to build more bat houses, Mr. Petras and his students are well on their way to doing their part to conserve wildlife in their community.

To Mr. Petras and his students, thank you for wanting to help protect New Jersey’s imperiled wildlife.  It is inspiring to see such enthusiasm and dedication in a group of young people.  I hope you enjoyed the project as much as I did.


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