Students at Coquihalla Elementary School construct bat houses as part of a program to learn about bats in the community.

Students at Coquihalla Elementary School construct bat houses as part of a program to learn about bats in the community.

Bat house construction part of learning process

Coquihalla Elementary School students learn the value of bats in the ecosystem

It’s not unusual to hear about children putting their talents to work building a birdhouse, or even a house for the family dog.

It’s when they turn their talents to the construction of bat houses, it wouldn’t be surprising that a few eyebrows may be raised.

But that’s exactly what a group of students at Coquihalla elementary school have been up to, and from the smiles on their faces, they couldn’t be more pleased with the results. The students are aged nine to 13 and have been sawing, hammering and even decorating the bat houses by burning images into the wooden frames.

“We chose bat houses because it fit in nicely with some research we were doing on bats. There are a lot of misconceptions about bats and when we started this project, several of the students were afraid of them, having heard stories about bats attacking people or getting caught up in their hair,” explained Kathy Koopman, one of the teachers leading the project.

“Of course, none of that is true. Bats are actually very beneficial to the ecosystem.”

And although white-nose syndrome – the devastating disease that has threatened to extirpate the little brown bat in eastern Canada – has not yet reached B.C., half of the B.C. bat species are considered species at risk. They are threatened by habitat loss, contaminated water and even factors like wind farms where it’s not the whirling blades striking the bats that is the problem, but rather the localized drop in air pressure that can literally burst the lungs of the little creatures.

“The bat houses the children are making gives them something to take home and serves as a reminder of what they learned about these little animals,” Koopman said.

The houses are fairly simple construction, allowing the bats a space about three-quarters of an inch in height in which to make their home. Koopman said that up to 20 or 30 bats will potentially crowd into a communal home, safe from predators.

“And on the bright side, they are great little mosquito-eaters, so there’s that benefit as well,” she said. “It’s a win/win situation overall.”