University of Florida

A Batty Beginning

Hands-on learning about bats kept Escambia County Extension agent Carrie Stevenson and several hundred 4-H'ers busy throughout the summer and fall of 2008. 

Bat-house-building workshops brought kids together to learn about the importance of bats in the ecosystem and how to help them survive in an increasingly urbanized Florida. Workshops at 4-H Camp Timpoochee were taught by teen counselors, county agents, and Wildlife Extension Specialist Holly Ober.

Many of the children who built bat houses hung them on barns and trees at home. Follow-up surveys showed that the students retained much of the information they had learned, including bats' preference for roosting in high places, nocturnal activity, diet, desire to roost with other bats in warm places, and the wide variety of bat species.

Other workshops and presentations were held throughout the summer and fall of 2008, including hands-on activities and presentations about attracting wildlife. Kids at PJC Environmental Summer Camp got a visit from Kristina Deeg, batkeeper at Gulf Breeze Zoo, and Carrie Stevenson gave a talk to 40 kindergarteners as part of a Halloween-week "bat unit" conducted by their teachers at Jim Allen Elementary School.

Meanwhile, the Langley Bell 4-H Center is constructing its own large bat house. Final plans are in place, thanks to an engineer with Bat Conservation International out of Austin, TX. Gulf Power has donated the power poles on which the large bat house will be erected, and carpentry students from George Stone Technical Center in Pensacola will build the bat house on site.

An interactive Web site for kids and volunteers to monitor use of bat houses geographically is also in the works. A precursor to an annual Bat Festival was held on September 27, 2008. Night creatures (insects, birds, and bats) were on display at Langley Bell with audience-participatory talks. Again the response was overwhelmingly positive.

 

For more information, contact Georgia Gelmis, Senior Information Specialist, Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program, calicoj@ufl.edu or Carrie Stevenson, FYN Agent, Escambia County, ctsteven@ufl.edu.

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