MJ Wixsom: Bats can be complex, beautiful

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 23, 2023

I enjoy going and teaching the fifth graders in the CATS program. Every teacher dreams of the opportunity to educate an exceptional group of students.

I have the privilege of imparting knowledge to a group of gifted fifth graders every week. They show immense curiosity and enthusiasm. 

Our topic of this week? The enigmatic world of bats.

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Bats, often misunderstood and shrouded in mystery, are assigned to the fascinating realm of nocturnal creatures. During our class, we delved into the intriguing distinctions between microbats and megabats, exploring their unique characteristics and the roles they play in the ecosystem. 

This was an eye-opening experience for our young scholars as they discovered the sheer diversity within the chiropteran order.

One of the first topics we explored was the dietary preferences of bats. We discussed how bats are divided into several categories based on their diets, including insectivores, vampires, nectar-feeders, and fruit bats. 

This revelation drew the students deeper into the world of bats, unveiling the integral role they play in maintaining the balance of nature by controlling insect populations and assisting in pollination.

We then delved into the contrasting perceptions of bats in different parts of the world. While bats often elicit fear and superstition in Europe, where they have been associated with vampires and creatures of the night, they are symbols of good luck and fortune in many other cultures. 

This cultural perspective helped our students understand how our perceptions of animals can vary widely across different regions and belief systems.

To make the lesson even more engaging, we took our young bat enthusiasts outside for a hands-on experience. Armed with an understanding of how bats use echolocation to locate their prey, the students tried their hand at this remarkable skill. 

Bats were blindfolded to practice echolocation, the students embarked on a thrilling adventure to find moths to ‘capture’ — all in good fun, of course.

During our outdoor adventure, we also discovered the incredible adaptability of moths. Some moths had evolved to mimic the sounds of bats to avoid or delay capture. 

This intricate interplay between predator and prey in the world of bats and moths showcases the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the natural world.

Our class on bats was not only an educational experience but also a journey into the realms of curiosity and discovery. The students left with a newfound appreciation for these extraordinary creatures and the vital roles they play in the ecosystem. 

They also came away with an important lesson about the diversity of cultures and the significance of understanding different perspectives.

In a world filled with unique and awe-inspiring creatures, the bat stands out as a symbol of nature’s complexity and beauty. 

The students who joined me on this journey of exploration are now well-equipped to appreciate and share their newfound knowledge about bats, micro and megabats, and the captivating world of nocturnal wonders.

It was a privilege to see the spark of interest and curiosity in these gifted fifth graders. I look forward to more opportunities to inspire them and kindle their love for the natural world, helping them become informed, responsible stewards of our planet. Bats, as our class has shown, are just one of a lifetime of discoveries waiting to be made.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566