Project LEAP team from the 6th grade classroom of Ms. Paul and Ms. Gate with completed bat houses.

Going to Bat for Bats: Service Learning with Project LEAP

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Thursday June 06, 2013

The next time you find yourself enjoying the South Burlington sports fields and parks this summer on a mosquito-free night, there’s a good chance you’re in the presence of bats.  Make sure you take a moment to thank those “invisible” insect eating bats and the Project LEAP team from the sixth grade classroom of teachers Debra Paul and Katelyn Gate, at Tuttle Middle School.  

This Spring Nicole Persuo, an Environmental Studies Intern from UVM’s Rubenstein School, joined the sixth grade class to teach the Project LEAP team all about the importance of bats to our environment and to lead a bat house construction project. 

Although typically feared and misunderstood in western culture, bats are one of the most important animal species on the planet.  Several aspects of our daily lives depend on the existence of these unique creatures.  Some species eat disease-carrying insects, others pollinate the plants that provide us with foods, and all enhance our soil with their nitrogen rich guano, or bat waste.

 Additionally, bats have the power to regenerate natural areas that were once completely deforested.  After learning all about bats, and with the help of parent volunteers, the Project LEAP students assembled and painted 10 bat houses which were subsequently installed at the five South Burlington schools by the district’s maintenance crew. The students worked hard on building the homes for the bats, helping to bring preventative solutions to life for the amazing creatures.  

Bat species all over the world are experiencing threats of endangerment from human impact and disturbance.  What’s most alarming is that it’s happening right here in South Burlington and all over the State of Vermont.  Of the 9 native Vermont bat species, 3 have now become listed as state or federally endangered.    One species that has been severely impacted is the Little Brown Bat, a bat that once thrived here and all over Chittenden County.  Little Brown Bats have become prime victims of the White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fatal fungal disease discovered 8 years ago in a cave outside of Albany, NY.  WNS has rapidly spread to caves all over the Eastern and Southern portions of the U.S.  It is estimated that between 5.6 and 6.7 million Little Brown Bats have died from WNS. Solutions are emerging for bats like Little Browns and people are fighting to protect them.  One protection measure that’s showing promising results is the construction and installation of bat houses in summer roosting areas.  The fungus that causes WNS can’t thrive in a dry, hot environment like that of a bat house, which ultimately provides bats with a sanctuary where they can’t contract the disease.  These are the kinds of houses the students built.
The work accomplished by the students through this project is a gift to the South Burlington community. These students have now become the protectors, voices, and stewards for endangered bats, especially the native Vermont Little Brown bats.  

Submitted by Debra Paul, F. H. Tuttle  Middle School 

About Project LEAP: Project LEAP is a FHTMS sixth grade team that uses the lens of sustainability to learn about the world.  The mission of the program is to get students involved in respecting all environments, learning for life, being active citizens, caring for others, building resiliency and celebrating life.  Students develop skills in collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.