Vampire bats don’t live in Alaska. They don’t drink human blood and they don’t usually kill the livestock they’re feeding on.
Still, if Kaden Quimby saw a bat, he thinks he’d probably hit it with a shovel. Just in case.
Quimby’s class, along with several others at Mountain View Elementary learned basic bat and owl facts Monday as part of a program through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Kellie Davidson’s class was the first to see the bat presentation and the 7- and 8-year-old students were surprisingly knowledgeable about the mammals.
Davidson said she had the group do some research before Laura Woodward, an environmental education volunteer, brought her bat bones, costumes, posters and photos into the classroom.
Her presentation included a lot of props.
“The Bumblebee Bat’s wingspan is six inches from tip to tip,” she told the class. “It’s one of the smallest mammals on earth. Only weighs two grams. Two grams is kind of hard to think of, if you told you how much two grams weighed you’d be like ‘I don’t really know.’ But here’s two paper clips. Two paper clips is two grams, that’s how much a bumblebee bat weighs.”
Students passed around paper clips and then a jug of water to illustrate how heavy a Giant Golden Crowned Flying Fox weighed. Graham said scientists could not agree on which bat was the biggest because biggest could mean tallest or which one weighs the most.
The flying fox weighed the most.
“This is about 3.3 pounds,” Graham said and she lugged the jug to the nearest student.
The bat with the largest wingspan, a Large Flying Fox, has a wingspan of six feet, which Graham illustrated with a long piece of laminated paper emblazoned with a bat logo.
Quimby, one of the most vocal in his group, shouted that it looked like the batman logo.
The students learned about white nose syndrome, which is rapidly killing bats on the East Coast of the United States, Graham said. They also learned about habitat, echo location and human encroachment on the bat’s natural environment.
Graham said that, while bats were cute, students should always tell an adult if they saw one of the Kenai Peninsula’s indigenous Little Brown Bats.
“The bat you see could have rabies, but what’s a more likely thing that a bat could have?” she said. “Teeth. It could bite you. Only one in every 200 bats has rabies, but all 200 of those bats has sharp teeth.”
Across the hall, in Kevin Hilton’s first-grade classroom, students contorted themselves into awkward shapes, flapped their arms and twisted their heads around during Michelle Ostrowski’s owl presentation.
Ostrowski said between owl, bat and spider presentations the refuge had seen more than 1700 students.
During Ostrowski and Graham’s classes, they dressed students up as bats and owls do demonstrate how the animal used each part.
After learning about owls Mykah Booth, 6, had some ideas about what a bird as big as a horned owl would do.
“It was just so big that it seemed like they could probably knock somebody down. Like, go swoosh and bam,” he said while waving his arms wildly in the air and stumbling around in the hallway outside of his classroom. “I’d go back and jump on it and hang on his legs so I could fly with it. It would be so awesome.”
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org