This past semester, I wanted to create a project for my grade 9 science class that not only had them learning more about their surrounding ecosystem, but also practicing good stewardship and advocacy for some of the creatures that seem to be disappearing from our area. They had all heard about the plight of the bees, but what about the bats?
The project had roots within our ecology unit, but also pulled in from other units - effects of light pollution/dark skies (astronomy unit) on the bats, and why bats are more likely to electrocute themselves than birds or squirrels (electricity unit). We looked at food webs involving bats, limiting factors on their population, the devastating effects of White Nose Syndrome, and how we as humans impact bat habitat.
The final piece of the project though, which we called the "Creative Component," was to come up with a way to give voice to the bats: spread the word about why we need bats in our ecosystem, or how we can help them make a return to Manitoulin Island.
I had tried a number of creative assignments with my grade 12s earlier this year, and absolutely loved what they created when there were no limits in place. I wasn't sure what to expect with my grade 9s (who struggled with the extra freedom at the beginning of the semester), but in the end, I was overwhelmed with what they produced.
Click on any of the pictures below to see a larger version!
What Students CreatedA good number of students designed, built, and hung bat boxes on their properties:
Some students sewed little bat plushies to help spread the word:
Two of the students chose to keep their bats, but the middle one hangs (upside down!) in my classroom. Our peer teacher went all out and created a GIANT bat plushie/cushion for our comfy corner!
Some students baked some bat-themed treats, and then delivered them to other classes in the school (or people in the community) along with a short speech about why saving the bats is important to our local ecosystem:
Many students harnessed their artistic abilities and designed posters/paintings to help get the word out (including the one at the top of this page):
Some students designed and created t-shirts to bring awareness to the plight of the bats:
Some students went on their own and did something totally original - I would never have thought to suggest anything like this. Love the creativity!
In the end, many students reported that the "bat unit" (as our ecology unit quickly became known as) was their favourite unit, as they could easily relate to how the bats affected us, and likewise how we affected them.
I loved how each student really took ownership of their creative component. With very little guidance, they were all able to play to their strengths and take a step toward benefiting their local environment. They were excited to see what each other had created, and were all able to explain the reasons why giving the bats a voice was so important. As a first step in trying a little STEAM in the classroom, it was a great success!