Plans for bat house, bat-friendly plants wins award for third-grade teacher

By David Pendered

For the second time in three years, a teacher from the same school in Monroe County, near Macon, has won statewide recognition as Conservation Teacher of the Year. Kimberlie Harris was honored this week for her proposal to build a habitat for bats with her third grade pupils.

Kimberlie Harris

Kimberlie Harris

Harris teaches at Samuel E. Hubbard Elementary School, in the city of Forsyth. This is the same school where teacher Tiffany Smith won the same award in 2016. Smith was recognized for plans for students and volunteers to build a bog to help manage stormwater runoff at the school.

Harris was recognized for her proposal, EcoTeam to the Rescue: Endangered Animals of Georgia. The plan is to build a habitat for bats, some of which are endangered, rare or species of concern in Georgia, according to a report by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The award provides a $1,000 grant from DNR. The grant is funded by TERN, The Environmental Resources Network. TERN is a friends group affiliated with DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section.

Bat houses aren’t as easy to build as one may imagine, given that bats seem to be able to nest in so many places where humans wish they didn’t nest.

A successful bat house should contain the following elements, according to a report by a bat group available via a link on a DNR page:

  • “The most successful bat houses have roost chambers at least 20 inches tall and at least 14 inches wide. Taller and wider houses are even better. Rocket boxes, a pole-mounted design with continuous, 360°chambers, should be at least 3 feet tall…. All houses should have 3- to 6-inch landing areas extending below the entrances or recessed partitions with landing space inside.”
bat house

Bat houses can be simple structures built from a few planks separates by a few spacers. Credit: tumbledrose.com

Bats also are picky eaters, according to a report by DNR. Bats prefer native insects, and native insects required native plants to attract the insects. Some plants attract moths, such as wild onion, feathery false lily and garden phlox. Other plants attract night insects, including bowman’s root and elderberry.

At Hubbard elementary, the habitat is to be built with help from parent volunteers, and members of Habitat for Bats and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s program, Connect to Protect.

“Cross-curricular creativity, student-driven learning and community partners made Dr. Harris’ well-written proposal stand out,” Linda May, a DNR environmental outreach coordinator, said in a statement.

The grant proposals submitted from educators across the state were reviewed and a winner selected by a representative of TERN and one from the wildlife section, according to a statement from DNR.

The habitat to be built at Hubbard elementary is to include bat houses and plants native to Georgia, which  are to attract insects for the bats to eat.

Harris, a language arts teacher, partnered with a science teacher to develop the bat habitat project. As part of the lesson, each of her third grade pupils was charged with researching the animals, developing a presentation about bats’ life history, and describing their threats to survival.

Each student was charged with completing one of the following exercises, which Harris provided on the website for her class:

  • “Imagine you are an animal that is endangered. Write a letter to the citizens of Georgia telling about your need to be protected. Be sure to include information on where you live, how important you are to the ecosystem, and what they can do to help you. It is important to follow the guidelines for writing a friendly letter.
  • “Create an informative magazine page, booklet, or brochure about your animal. Include a lot of scientific facts but be creative. Your work can be done neatly by hand or on the computer. Your teacher will show you how to use the publishing programs.

    bowman's root, bats

    The colorful Bowman’s Root attracts insects that are prey for bats. Credit: wildflower.org

  • “Draw a poster that shows your animal, its risk, and what can be done to help. Make it neat, colorful, and well-organized.
  • “Create a Google Slide presentation with at least 10 slides. Be sure to include lots of pictures, facts about the animal, and suggestions for ways to help.
  • “Make a model or diorama of your animal in its natural habitat. Write a paragraph from your animal’s viewpoint telling about yourself.
  • “Write and prepare a skit or puppet show about your animal and its endangerment. A copy of your script will need to be turned in.
  • “Write a song about your animal. It’s fun to use a tune that you know and make up new lyrics!
  • “Make a simple costume of the animal (ex. Make a mask and wear clothing of an appropriate color.) and present a speech from the animal’s viewpoint.”

 

bats in house

Bats eventually will find their way to homes that are built specially for them, according to state environmental officials. Credit: uniquebirdhouseboutique.com

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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