Bats are so fascinating. When the National Geographic Reader Bats by Elizabeth Carney came across my desk, I knew it was time to come up with some fun science activities to do with bats.
About the book: Bats is a reader level 2, for children 4 to 8 years old. It is full of gorgeous full-color photographs, accurate scientific information, and at the top of some pages are silly riddles and jokes that kids will love. The photograph of baby fruit bats all cuddled in blankets at a bat rescue nursery is too cute for words. This book is a great way to find out more about bats!
1. Bat Anatomy
One of the first things you notice about bats is their large wings.
(Photo from Wikimedia)
If you look closely you can see their wing is similar to our hand. The tiny hook protruding from the top is the thumb and the long, narrow “fingers” have a thin layer of skin between them. Because of this scientists gave bats the name Chiroptera, which is Greek for “hand wing.”
Check this bat anatomy diagram for more details.
- Cotton balls
- bat anatomy diagram
Have the children draw the outline of a bat (you might want to provide one to trace for really young children). Glue cotton balls where the body would go. Ask them to place their own hand over the wings, and figure out where the thumb and fingers should go. Glue toothpicks to represent the arm, elbow, thumb (a piece of toothpick), and fingers.
Older children may create a more complicated and detailed model. A helpful resource might be The Bat Book & See-Through Model by Luann Colombo and illustrated by Susan Hernday.
2. Different Kinds of Bats
Bats come in all sizes, shapes and colors. The largest are the fruit bats, in the group Megachiroptera. The largest can have a wingspan of six feet. The smallest bats belong to the group Microchiroptera. The tiny bumblebee bat has a body the size of a bumblebee.
Although the stereotype is of a bat living in a cave, bats may live in many places. One of my favorites is the Honduras white bat that makes a shelter out of plant fronds.
Take a look at some different bat species at the Bats of San Diego.
3. Bat Food
What do bats eat? A majority of bat species eat flying insects, including those pesty mosquitoes. Some eat animals such as frogs or fish. Fruit bats, as their name suggests, eat fruit.
Finger Puppet Show to Investigate Food Chains
Here’s a direct link to a .pdf download for “You’ve Gotta Eat to Live” food chain activity with moth and bat finger puppets to make from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.
4. How Bat’s Find Food – Echolocation
Bats are nocturnal, they are active and looking for food at night. In the darkness, the bats produce sounds. Some of the sounds are ultrasonic, which means we can not hear them. Other sounds bats make are within our hearing range.
The bats use the ultrasonic sounds to locate their food in a process known as echolocation. Their special ears allow them to pick up the echos of the sounds they make bouncing off of nearby objects. They can detect and avoid objects as small as a human hair using only sound.
Ever play the game Marco Polo? You close your eyes and try to locate other players saying “Marco Polo?” If you have, you know how difficult it is for humans to locate objects by sound.
Can you design a cupped ear extender out of a piece of paper that might help you hear sounds from around the room or further away? Look at bat ears for inspiration.
A cool science project might be to get an ultrasonic bat detector and search for bats at night.
5. Build a bat house.
In some areas you can provide a bat house for bats.
We built a bat house a few years ago, but later found out bats don’t use them in the Sonoran Desert, probably because of the heat (birds don’t use bird houses here, either). Check around for information about bats that live near you and find out whether they will use a bat house if you provide one. If so, there are instructions online how to build them.
Bat House Information
Check out Organization for Bat Conservation for loads of information and activities.
And there are always a lot of good books about bats, including;
(Affiliate links go to Amazon)
The Bats book was provided for review.