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Bats in the Classroom:
Activities Across
The Curriculum

October -- the perfect time to work bats into the curriculum and teach about some of the misconceptions often held about these interesting creatures of nature.

Why have hundreds of people gathered by the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin, Texas?

Each night, from mid-March until early November, people gather to view one of nature's most spectacular sights. On a summer evening, spectators near the bridge might see a million or more bats "spiraling into the sunset." The bats are hungry for insects, and evening -- when large numbers of insects are out -- is dinnertime for bats!

But it wasn't always that way!

The bats -- in this case, Mexican free-tail bats -- didn't appear in such large numbers until after the bridge was reconstructed in 1980. The reconstruction had created new crevices beneath the bridge that, as it turned out, were ideal places for bat roosting. Soon bats began moving in by the hundreds of thousands!

As the bat colony grew, many Austin-area residents reacted with fear. They signed petitions hoping to have the bats eradicated.

Then, in stepped Bat Conservation International (BCI). BCI organized a campaign to spread the truth about bats: "Bats are gentle and incredibly sophisticated animals, that bat watchers have nothing to fear if they don't try to handle bats, and that on the nightly flights out of under the bridge, the Austin bats eat from 10,000 to 30,000 pounds of insects, including numerous agricultural and yard pests."

Any day now the bats will be leaving for their winter home in Mexico, but they'll be back next spring! And so will many of the people who live in and around Austin because, today, most Austin residents truly love their bat neighbors.


Listening. Invite students to listen as you read aloud the introduction text above. Then ask the following questions below:

  • Why do hundreds of people gather by the Congress Avenue Bridge on a summer evening? (to watch bats fly out from their home under the bridge)
  • Why do the bats come out from their home under the bridge each evening? (to feast on a dinner of insects)
  • When did the bats first appear under the bridge in such large numbers? (in 1980; or after the bridge was reconstructed)
  • Why did the bats move in under the bridge? (the new crevices created by reconstruction were perfect places for bat roosting)
  • Do you think the bridge builders knew that they were creating a good home for bats when they reconstructed the bridge? (probably not; accept reasoned responses)
  • When the bats moved in, some people wanted to have them eradicated. What does the word eradicated mean? (accept reasonable responses, e.g, killed, gotten rid of, exterminated)
  • Why did a group called Bat Conservation International get involved in protecting the Congress Avenue Bats? (they wanted to teach people the truth about bats)
  • How many pounds of insects might the Austin bats eat on a summer evening? (anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 pounds of insects; accept reasonable answers, including "thousands" of pounds)
  • Where do Austin's bats go in winter? (to Mexico)
  • In which state will you find Austin's bats? (Texas)
  • If you could choose, what do you think would be a good title for the story I just read aloud to you? (accept reasonable responses)

    More listening/science. Share this fun video that teaches about echolocation, which explains how bats locate insects and other things.

    Puzzles. Print out a Bat Word Search Puzzle for students or invite them to do Bat Crossword

    Read aloud. Read aloud from one of two popular children's books about bats. Stellaluna by Jannell Cannon is a wonderful story of friendship and acceptance that entertains while developing an appreciation for bats. And from the popular Scholastic series, based on the TV series starring Ms. Frizzle, kids will love learning about bats through The Magic School Bus: Going Batty. See below for links to sites that provide additional bat-related literature. (NOTE: Stellaluna is also available in a CD-ROM version, which has won wide praise from children and teachers). The CD-ROM includes a separate science section, "Bat Quiz," which teaches children scientific facts about bats and their world.

    Maps. (For use with You've Got Bats!. The maps that appear in the right margin of this resource highlight in a visual way the range of differrent species of North American bats.) Students can access this page online, or you might cut and paste the maps onto a blank sheet of paper, photocopy the page of maps, and present that resource to students. They will use the maps to answer the following map-related questions:

  • Which bat can be found in more places in the United States -- the big brown bat or the little brown bat? (the big brown bat)
  • Is the pallid bat found on the east coast or the west coast of the United States? (the west coast)
  • Which bat can be found in Canada -- the eastern long-eared bat or the evening bat? (the eastern long-eared bat)
  • How many of the ten bat species shown on these maps can be found in the state of Florida? (five of the species)
  • Which bat is found mostly in the southern parts of the United States -- the Eastern long-eared bat or the Mexican free-tailed bat? (the Mexican free-tailed bat)
  • Which bat species is found all along the western coast of the United States -- the Yuma myotis or the cave myotis? (the Yuma myotis)
    Create additional questions to ask students.

    More Maps. If you teach students in grades 3 and up, you might have them create their own bat range maps. Assign to each student one of the following bat species:

    Big Brown Bat
    Cave Myotis
    Desert Red Bat
    Eastern Pipistrelle
    Eastern Red Bat
    Evening Bat
    Hoary Bat
    Little Brown Myotis
    Long-eared Myotis
    Mexican Free-tailed Bat
    Pallid Bat
    Silver-haired Bat
    Southeastern Myotis
    Southern Yellow Bat
    Spotted Bat
    Townsend's Big-eared Bat
    You could set this activity up as a classroom computer center; students can cycle into the center and complete the activity during the course of a week. Alternatively, students might create their maps as an entire-class activity in the school's computer lab. Give each student a U.S. outline map. Challenge them to use State dropdown menu on the Species and Profiles resource to learn which states are home to the breed of bat they are assigned. Have them color the states where their species is found. They might write a brief report about the bat and create a display by posting their reports and maps on a bulletin board.

    Make a radio show. Use the scripts from several episodes of the Earth & Sky radio program. Students can work in small groups (dividing up DB's and JB's parts in the scripts for as many students as are in the group, if that is preferred). Each group can focus on a different bat-related episode of the popular series. They can rehearse the scripts and concoct their own special sound effects as they create "radio broadcasts" in the classroom. Tape record their broadcasts. Scripts for five episodes are available online. They include Bat Talk, The Bats and the Bees, Echolocation, and Vampire Bats. This activity might motivate pairs or groups of students to create scripts for "radio broadcasts" on other areas of interest.

    Research. Students might do this activity individually or in small groups: Invite students to use library and Internet resources to collect a list of interesting bat facts. Create a class list of amazing bat facts.

    Bat quizzes on the Internet. After students have shared the bat facts they found in the previous activity, invite the new "bat experts" to check out one of these fun bat quizzes on the Internet.

  • Bat Quiz. Test your knowledge of these fantastical flying mammals with this quick quiz.
  • Test Your Knowledge Get your score after you answer eight true-false questions from the University of California at Hayward.

    Science/endangered species. Invite students to work in small groups to put together reports about four U.S. bat species that are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Division of Endangered Species). The four endangered bat species are the gray bat, Indiana bat, Ozark big-eared bat, and Virginia big-eared bat. Each group of students should provide information about their species, including a description of the bat and an illustration; a U.S. map showing the specie's location and range; a description of its habitat; reasons for its endangered status; and other interesting facts. Students should use a variety of sources. A good starting point is the Web page provided the USF&WS for each species, which can be accessed by clicking on the bat names above. If you have a large class, you might assign two small groups to each bat.

    Art. Have students create Bat Mobiles or a Flying Bat Flip Book [archived copy].




  • "Bats in the Classroom? Investigating How Bats May Be Used as a Subject for Study in Science and Cross-Curricular Studies" by Paul Elliot, School Science Review, December 1995.
  • "The Birds and the Beesand the Bats" by MaryAnn Foote, Science Teacher, April 1990. Pollination vectors of a variety of types are described including bats, beetles, bees, flies, moths, birds, and the wind. Some of the adaptations of plants designed to help facilitate pollination are discussed. Strategies for incorporating this information into a lesson plan are suggested.
  • "Bat Facts and Fun" by Judith A. McKee, Science and Children, October 1992. This article describes a unit of study for elementary school science on bats. Students investigate the different types of bats; examine their behavior; find facts that other students are unlikely to know; write stories about bats; and examine the concept of echolocation, the means by which bats navigate. Suggests integrated activities for mathematics instruction.
  • "Batty Misconceptions" by Brian J. Alters, Science Activities, Summer 1996. Presents an activity that enables teachers to access students' existing knowledge of bats, has students confront misconceptions and learn more about the real lives of bats, and asks students to apply their knowledge while reinforcing the difference between science and myth.



Bat Conservation International (BCI)
This site includes a wide variety of resources including ways to get involved, bat facts and trivia, species lists, and bat-related products. (Other parts of this site are noted below.)

This fun video rap song explains how bats use echolocation to track down insects.

Reading List for Students
BCI's list of books designed to answer most basic questions and to provide easy-to-find references for research projects and further study. Includes "General Introductory Information" and "Books for Young Readers."

Bats and Public Health Concerns
Contrary to common misconceptions, disease transmission from bats to people seldom occurs and it is easily avoided. Public health concerns center on rabies and histoplasmosis, which are described here in detail.

Holy Bat Box Batman
Info about one man's bat box, but -- more importantly -- an excellent selection of links to other bat sites in many states and around the world.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
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