January 26th, 2010
From Student J:
Do you have any resources that would be helpful in teaching elementary grade students about bats? Any information would be appreciated! Thank you!
I would highly recommend the All About Bats curriculum put together by Bat Conservation International. It has several very good activities for elementary aged students. http://www.batcon.org/index.php/all-about-bats/educator-curriculum.html
I only have pieces of this curriculum, but we used to have a full copy at Irvine Nature Center, where I used to work. They might let you take a look at it if you gave them a call. 410 484 2413
Metal slinkies are a great way to demonstrate echolocation. The students hold the top hoop against their chin, while a partner covers their ears. They drop the rest of the slinky against a hard surface, while still holding the loop against their chin, and they should hear the sound rebounding back and forth from their chin to the floor.
There are other great echolocation activities. A version of Marco Polo, where a blindfolded bat (student A) tries to capture a sighted moth (student B). The rest of the students circle around the pair to make sure the bat doesn’t wander away. The bat tries to catch the moth by using echolocation. To do this, the bat cries “Bat” to which the moth is obligated to answer “Moth”. The bat uses these answers to try and locate the moth by sound. A variation of this has one student as the bat and all the others as trees. Instead of trying to catch the trees, the bat tries to avoid them based on the “tree” answers.
Bats migrate so any migration activities done with birds can be modified for bats. We do a migration game where bats migrate through a playing field and have to avoid being tagged by an owl or two. Bats tagged become migration obstacles like storms or developments covering their hibernacula that might plague a migrating bat. These obstacles should stay rooted to the ground and are only allowed to reach out with their arms, but not move their feet. Bats that successfully migrate to their summer area try to migrate back through the field, now filled with more obstacles, to their winter area. I like to play this until all bats are lost and discuss how the bats were unable to cope with the habitat changes presented by the obstacles. This can lead to discussions about endangered bats like the Indiana bat.
You can also create a bat migration journey that students can map out. Provide them with a set of several situations encountered by a migrating bat. Some of the scenarios might describe close encounters with predators or other obstacles in their way. The student reads the card and then plots the point on the map.
Some bats also hibernate. Math activities can be created that compare a bats metabolism in hibernation to the students metabolic rates. Heart rate, body temperature could be graphed to show the differences. Bat size differences also provides opportunities for math and measurement. Some fruit bats have wingspans of 6 feet while bumble bee bats are the world’s smallest mammal.
Food preferences are also an important aspect of bat biology. From fruit, nectar and flowers to blood, insects, fish and small vertebrates, bats eat a wide variety of food as a family. However, most individual species are fairly specialized in what they eat. All Maryland Bats eat insects. This opens the possibility of sorting and matching bats with food or doing an activity that allows students to invent adaptations for catching or finding these varied foods.
The wonders of flight is also a topic that might be explored with the students. Bernouli’s principal, where the faster the air travels over a surface the less pressure is placed on this surface can be demonstrated by holding a piece of in front of you and blowing on the top side of the paper. The air moving over the surface of the paper lessens the pressure on top so the far end of the paper will curl upwards. Paper airplanes might be a good way to let students experiment with different wing shapes etc. Also, just observing the anatomy of a bat wing is a fun thing to do.