Going to bat for bats

By Francesca Gardner

12 April 2022

Some might think her idea was batty, but for Cayman International School student Victoria Sleutz, it made perfect sense.

As part of her school's core extension class last year, the sixth-grade students were asked to design a project that would align the school with their community principles.

Guiding the students on their projects was STEAM design teacher Luke Meinen, who says the assignment was part of the school's "STEAM" initiative that focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

“In sixth grade, core extension focuses on looking at systems and their impact on our world, also touching on the ripple effect of doing anything, good or bad," Meinen says. "Students are then asked to identify a system within the school community that they can make an impact on."

Victoria came up with the idea to design a bat house.

“My grade was taking part in a school beautification project and I heard someone mention a bat house," she says. "I decided to take it on, as it sounded interesting. Later, I learned that bats are a threatened species and are quickly losing their habitat.”

Bat houses provide safe environments for bats, which can consume thousands of insects, including mosquitoes, every hour. Having bat houses in an area is therefore an environmentally friendly and effective way to combat mosquitoes.

With the help of Meinen and her father, Victoria set out to design and build a bat house. She received help from employees of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands with the design of the house and her project.

“This particular house can hold 12 to 100 bats,” Victoria says.

After some delays, Caribbean Utilities Company recently assisted Victoria with mounting the bat house near Cayman International School. Now it's just a matter of waiting for a colony of bats to move in.

“The bats that I would like to attract to my bat house are the velvety free-tailed bats," she says. "These are very small and extremely harmless animals that can eat up to 2,000 mosquitoes a night each."

Victoria says she enjoyed building and painting the bat house and that the project was a great learning experience. Part of what she learned was that people shouldn't be afraid of bats, and that a lot of the myths about them are untrue.

“Bats are very clean creatures that groom themselves regularly," she says. "Bats cannot bring diseases by just being present; contact must be made, and even then, it is extremely unlikely that a human could get sick.”

This article was originally published in the April 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

young girl building bat house
Cayman International School student Victoria Sleutz works on her bat house project.
bat house
The completed bat house, ready for installation.

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