Every year at Hubbard Elementary School, Kimberlie Harris teaches third graders about the state’s endangered species.
This school year, when she assigned to her gifted third graders a persuasive writing piece detailing steps that could be taken to save the animals, they surprised her.
“The group I had was pretty opinionated,” Harris, Ph.D., said. “They felt that we shouldn’t just write about it. We should actually do something.”
The class, which includes gifted students from all Monroe County elementary schools, decided to focus their efforts on helping preserve Georgia’s bat population.
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“We want other people to know we care for the bats and we want them to be safe,” Caroline Brooks said Wednesday as her classmates worked to build an ideal habitat for the Indiana myotis, a bat critically endangered in Georgia.
The habitat, being completed on the school’s campus off Ga. 83, will include two bat boxes and a garden full of pollinators that attract the furry winged mammals, such as Black-Eyed Susans, Rattlesnake Masters and Gray Headed Coneflowers.
The supplies were paid for with a $1,000 Georgia Department of Natural Resources grant that Harris won last year along with the title of 2018 Conservation Teacher of the Year. The award also will include a student field trip to the University of Georgia to study the health of Georgia Piedmont ecosystems.
Flowers for the garden, purchased at Mossy Corner Nursery, are being grown in the school’s hydroponics and aquaponics lab and also inside the greenhouse at Mary Persons High School.
Groups of students rotated tasks Wednesday morning, checking to make sure seeds were sprouting, tilling soil and painting bat boxes.
“Because we have more of a warm and cool climate, we had to paint (the bat boxes) a gray color,” 8-year-old Caroline Rusgrove said. “If you live in a hot place, you would have to paint it a lighter color.”
Adalyne Fowls, 9, said she has most enjoyed “finding the perfect spot for mounting the bat house.”
Math teacher Peggy McConnell Trammell paced with students around the yard, counting up the 20 to 30-feet space that is needed between the bat boxes and any trees or lights where predators might lurk. Cathy Brooks, a social studies teacher, oversaw students using rakes and hoes to clear the box gardens of roots.
The population of bats in North America has dwindled since 2006, when a fungal disease called white nose syndrome started wiping out entire caves in New England. The disease was first reported in Georgia in 2013, according to the state DNR.
“We also just want to let the state of Georgia know there are many things that you can do on a minor scale to help these animals,” Harris said. “It breaks my children’s hearts every year when we research (endangered species) and we realize that instead of the number increasing, it’s gone down.”