Last week our nature studies landed us researching the dark.. the mysterious.. the commonly misunderstood… the bat. These perplexing little creatures have been the brunt of ignorance for such a long time. Fortunately, their benefits are coming into the light (not literally) and humans are starting to accept them as helpful rather than harmful.
There is still so much to be discovered about bats and scientists have really only started to scratch the surface. We were excited to learn a little bit of what is already known about these mystifying mammals. We love a good kinesthetic approach but obviously getting our hands on a bat was out of the question. We filled our studies with informational books, print-outs, activities and observation (the best we could) in the evenings when our hungry flapping friends would emerge into the sky.
We started the week with a library run to pick up the best batty books we could find. Here’s what we found:
- Bats: Shadows in the Night -Diane Ackerman
- Amazing Animals: Bats -Kate Riggs
- Stellaluna -Janell Cannon
The first two books listed where factual and full of beautiful pictures and diagrams. Stellaluna is an adorable story of a baby bat who is separated from her mother, lands in a bird’s nest and is soon accepted as one of their own. It’s a “living book”, which Charlotte Mason described as usually being written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject “come alive.” The story tells of how the bat tries to fit in with the birds but as biology would have it, she fails. Like an Ugly Duckling story, the bat later finds her family and happily rejoins them to live her happy flappy life the way she was meant to. We learned about bat’s sleeping arrangements, eating habits, and anatomy through this cute story.
We learned about the bat’s body and life cycle through a few printouts we found. (Clickable below) We discovered that bats, being mammals, possess many human-like qualities such as having 5 delicate fingers within their wings, nursing their young, and carrying their young while they’re out hunting for food, sometimes dropping them and losing them temporarily… Hey, it happens to the best of us, right? Though their knees are actually backwards from ours and instead of walking, they crawl by dragging themselves using their teeth and claws at the tips of their wings (gives a whole new meaning to “tooth and nail”), they are more relatable to us than they are to birds.
The fact that bats have fingers in their wings was such a neat discovery. It lead me to want to recreate their wing in a tangible way that really reflected how similar they are to our hands. So I designed a wearable bat wing with felt, chalk and hot glue. (Never underestimate a crafty momma with a hot glue gun!) I simply outlined Raygan’s hand with the chalk onto the felt, creating “webbed” fingertips and cut it out. We then cut small strips from the scrap felt and used them to make finger slots and a wrist band. Once glued into place, it held the wing onto her hand in a glove-like fashion. This cheap and easy craft ended up being her pride and joy the rest of the day. She wore it and showed it off to anyone who was (or wasn’t) interested in seeing it. I love when my crazy ideas are actually successful!
Bats are naturally some of the first animals that come to mind when discussing echolocation. Echolocation is the ability to reflect sound off of objects to determine their distance. If you’ve ever been so lucky to hear a bat fluttering by in the evening, then you’ve likely heard the “click” sound being made as they try to locate their next snack while avoiding your house or nearby telephone pole. Despite the common saying “blind as a bat”, bats actually have great vision, but like you and I, they need a little extra assistance whilst flying around in the dark at speeds of up to 60 mph. We did a pretty neat experiment to demonstrate how sound changes as objects get closer and further away. By tying a metal spoon onto some yarn, winding the yarn around our fingers, and placing it (the yarn) up to our ear, we were able to clank the spoon at various distances and hear the pitch being changed.
I’ve wanted a bat house for our back yard for quite some time, after learning that bats are excellent sources of pest control, especially for mosquitoes. If you’ve ever lived near the woods, you feel my pain on this one.. literally. What better time to order a bat house than on the week that we’re studying bats? I went with a kit, rather than buying and cutting the materials ourselves or purchasing a pre-made one. The kit was a fun and easy project for Raygan to do, mostly on her own. She’s really been into building things lately, so this was right up her alley. The instructions were very clear, the materials were precise, and overall it was a painless activity that we hope wont stay vacant for very long.
To end our week’s study, I felt like it was important to make a chart, showing some of the myths that people believe compared to some of the facts that we had revealed in our bat research. Fallacies such as them being blind, dirty, and biting and sucking blood, were all exposed to the truths that proved all of the opposites. Well, there are some bats (that live in South America) that will drink blood, but they don’t attack their hosts and typically aren’t brave enough to approach humans in the first place. So next time you see a bat, don’t fret! They are likely to do much more in your favor (like swallowing up mosquitoes, yippee!) than not.
What a fun week learning about some amazing (and adorable) creatures. Now.. to figure out how to have pet bats.. hmm…
I hope this collection of information is useful to you and your family, whether you’re homeschoolers or not! If you enjoy unit study style learning, please feel free to utilize the ideas and resources that I’ve provided. If you have any other thoughts to add to this study, or decide to try it out in your home, please comment below and let me know! I’d be honored if you would share this article with your friends and family who are fellow home educators and please be sure to give credit where it is due. All references should remain linked to their originators.