A Passion for Saving Bats at JFK


Showing a true passion for animals and science, and a dedication to plan and execute their very own “Help Save Bats!” project, 25 determined fourth-graders at John F. Kennedy Intermediate raised $721 to aid bats, whose endangered populations have been devastated by a catastrophic disease.

While studying scientific ecosystems, teacher Marie Marck’s class examined how negative and positive changes to an ecosystem can affect a food chain and food web, before moving their focus to human responsibility in protecting the ecosystem by being responsible with pesticides, pollution and overuse of natural resources. Two days later, the students read an article in the Time for Kids news magazine on white nose syndrome and the dire effect of this fungal illness on the continent’s bat population. The facts they collected from close reading of the article made them aware of the dangers to the ecosystem if North America’s bat population continues to decrease, spurring additional class research on bats and the disease. “We discussed the increase of mosquitos in our area over the past few years, among other things, and decided to raise money to help scientists save bats,” explained Marck.

In the project’s writing phase, the students drafted personal essays on the importance of bats. Using a flowchart to assist them in learning how to conduct a fundraiser, the students then approached Principal Susan Bonner and Associate Principal Shaun McLeod, explaining what they had learned and why they wanted to help bats. After their request was approved, the class brainstormed to create a slogan for the project, dubbed “Help Save Bats!” To promote it, they designed pencils, posters and laminated bookmarks.

During fundraising week, the bat project students visited other classrooms at JFK, assisted by class parent Thomas Catanzano, and eagerly read their essays to the students and teachers to educate them about white nose syndrome and the ecological importance of bats. The actual fundraiser took place during lunch periods and successfully raised a total of $721 from the generous JFK student population, money that will be donated to help rehabilitate bats and aid research on white nose syndrome.

Marck had also contacted Bat Conservation International, a Texas-based organization that was quoted in the Time for Kids article. Once she explained how her students were working hard to bring awareness to white nose syndrome, the thrilled organization set up a video conference via Skype. Facilitated by Andrew Choi, Deer Park’s instructional technology administrator, the class Skyped with BCI scientist Dianne Odegard, learning more details and asking detailed questions about the lives and behaviors of bats, and viewing a live bat that was being rehabilitated at the BCI center.

“This project is evidence of the power of children,” said Marck. “These students were able to internalize knowledge from academics and enthusiastically apply this knowledge to make a difference.”