The third graders at Strathcona elementary have taken on a neighbourhood housing crisis of a different kind.
They’re helping to house hundreds of bats.
Their keen interest in the flying mammals helped with the creation of a few new bat houses, which are to be installed at Fairfield Park this month. And they built them in their own classroom, with the help of some big buddies from Vedder middle school.
It all started with the class, led by teacher Leanne Halko, adopting the park’s pond. The park adjoins the school’s playgrounds and fields, and is an important aspect of the neighbourhood surrounding the school. Beyond that, the park is lined by agricultural land and residential housing. The greenspace’s park is home to countless birds, mammals and insects.
The more they learned about the park and its inhabitants, they more they focused in on bats. In December, student Ayden Lunde said one sentence to make a difference.
“We should build some bat houses!” he suggested.
“This is very student-initiated,” Halko says. “It just kind of evolved from his suggestion.”
Justin Moore, a vice principal of curriculum in the Chilliwack school district, connected with the city’s parks department for the go-ahead.
“Not only were they okay with it,” Moore says. “They offered to install as many as we wanted through the park. The kids were very excited.
Ms. Halko’s class joined forces with the woodshop teacher at Vedder middle, Steve Cecchi. His students prefabricated the bat houses over at the middle school, and packaged them into kits.
But the partnership didn’t stop there. About half a dozen Vedder middle students joined the Grade three class in April for a morning of construction. With all the pieces measured and pre-cut in the safety of the shop class, the younger students were shown how fit the wood together, use a hammer and nails, staple gun mesh (for the bats to hang on) to the houses, and finish it all off by drilling a few screws in the top.
The whole project is an example of place-based learning that teachers are adopting in the new B.C. curriculum, says Moore.
“It brings student passions together with peer support and city involvement,” he says. The next step will be an installation date at the park, which the students will be present for.
As for the students, they just know they’re doing something good for the bats and the surrounding ecosystem.
“They’re very much into what they’re doing,” Halko says. “They know we can make a difference, and help our environment.”