MEEKER | The week of Oct. 29 – Nov. 1, 2018, was officially proclaimed “Bat Week” through national proclamations from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The Blanco Ranger District along with Meeker High School (MHS) junior, Nick Massey, celebrated Bat Week by presenting fun and informative facts about bats to kindergarten through fifth grade students at Meeker Elementary School (MES). Ann Franklin, MES librarian, scheduled and hosted the sessions and often assisted with presentations and crafts.
Blanco Ranger District employees Mary Cunningham, Curtis Keetch, Jake Lewis, Sarah Lewis and Aaron Grimes all assisted with various presentations. Sarah Lewis, visitor information services at the Blanco Ranger District, assembled craft kits that included wings and googly eyes as well as more than 260 spray painted toilet paper rolls. The rolls were used as “bat bodies” in a bat building craft session with second and third graders.
Nick Massey presented these fun facts to the fourth and fifth graders at MES to dispel common myths that typically paint these fascinating flyers in a negative light:
– Bats are the only true flying mammal.
– Bats can be small like the tiny bumblebee bat, the size of a dime, or very large like the spectacled flying fox from Australia with a 6 foot wingspan.
– Of the over 1,100 species of bats in the world, only three have a diet of blood.
– Different types of bats have different diets; while our local bats feast on insects, other bats drink nectar and are pollinators while others are fruit eaters and disperse seeds in their guano.
– Bat waste, or “guano”, is a prized fertilizer.
– Bats are sensitive to disturbance while roosting and hibernating.
– So much more!
Massey completed this activity as part of his agricultural education program that consists of three integrated parts: classroom instruction, FFA and a Supervised Agricultural Experience or SAE. Massey is involved in the local Future Farmers of America (FFA) program. He became involved in ‘Bat Week’ activities as his Supervised Agricultural Event (SAE) project which he is completing with the United States Forest Service out of the local Blanco Ranger District.
The SAE is a required component of an agricultural education program for every student. Through their involvement in the SAE program, students are able to consider multiple careers and occupations, learn expected workplace behavior, develop specific skills within an industry, and are given opportunities to apply academic and occupational skills in the workplace or a simulated workplace environment. Through these strategies, students learn how to apply what they are learning in the classroom as they prepare to transition into the world of college and career opportunities.
With the conclusion of Bat Week activities, Massey is continuing his SAE at the Blanco Ranger District, summarizing range allotment monitoring data.
Denee Chintala, Meeker High School agricultural department and FFA advisor, said, “It is enjoyable to watch our kids from this program give back to their community through their SAE’s. I love SAE’s because they provide our students with work-based learning opportunities that enrich their previous knowledge and skills through real world experiences. When students find their passion and future career through this program, that’s when this program shows its true benefits and potential for our future students.”
The Blanco Ranger District works in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) to recruit and employ youth from home and across the country to gain natural resource experience by working with federal agencies at summer seasonal jobs. These jobs normally consist of trail work in non-motorized areas across the forest. In 2017, the Blanco District piloted the RMYC Community Development Crew (CDC) program. In this program, the Forest Service works with Rio Blanco County, the Town of Meeker and RMYC to provide educational opportunities for youth ages 14-16. The program consists of two weeks working in the community, and two weeks working on the forest.
Cunningham worked with the (CDC) in July of this year to build six bat boxes. These boxes were donated to Rio Blanco County and Town of Meeker to be placed in areas that are likely to attract bats to provide additional roosting habitat. As stated earlier, our local bats eat insects as their primary diet, so the more we can do to manage for these fascinating flyers, the fewer mosquitoes we will endure through this natural form of control.
Special to the Herald Times