Some of the more common questions kids ask Ken and Barb Bowman about bats demonstrate how urban legend has influenced the way children as well as their parents perceive these nocturnal flying mammals.
"Kids ask if all bats are vampires," says Bowman, who with his wife, Barb, runs the volunteer organization Bat Conservation of Wisconsin (or BCOW) in Sun Prairie. "A lot of parents ask about rabies. They see things on TV like bats getting stuck in hair and that all bats are blind, and that makes an impression. That's why we do what we do."
For the past 12 years the Bowmans have been answering just such questions about bats and teaching primarily kids at about 30 educational programs at state park nature centers, libraries and some schools. And with the high likelihood of serious bat disease reaching Wisconsin soon, that education is more important than ever.
The Bowmans founded the nonprofit Bat Conservation of Wisconsin in 1999, turning their fascination with bats into a passion. "In the early 1980s, everyone was into saving the wolves, the polar bears and baby seals, but nobody was saying 'let's go save the bats,'" says Ken Bowman.
Bat Conservation of Wisconsin educates people about the benefits of bats in the environment, and is licensed to perform bat rescue and rehabilitation through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Last winter, for example, the Bowmans rescued a record 205 bats. The winter before they helped 193 survive the winter after people found them hanging on rooflines, attics and in old houses. "In the wintertime, we maintain all the bats we capture or get in. If you take them outside they will starve to death," says Ken.
From the middle of September through the winter, BCOW receives 10-15 bats a day that people find and do not want around their house. In the middle of winter, it can take up to 45 minutes to feed and care for all the bats.
Twelve bats are permanent residents at BCOW, not releasable due to injury. The type of bats that currently call BCOW home reflect some of the variety of species commonly found in Wisconsin: Hoary, Big Brown and Little Brown. These permanent residents become part of the organization's education efforts, the ultimate teaching aid.
"It's much easier to teach kids about bats because they're open to new things and don't have the fears that adults have," says Barb Bowman. "Anytime you bring a live animal to a program, kids love it. They are very curious. Some little girls think they're icky, but most people think they're cute." Most kids, in fact, want to touch the bats, which is strictly forbidden. Although cute, they are wild animals and to be left alone.
Another big part of their lesson on bat benefits: All Wisconsin bats are night insect eaters. "They eat a lot of insects that bother us and our food supply," Bowman says. "In Wisconsin they only eat nighttime flying insects, including mosquitoes, gnats, moths, beetles and June bugs."
About the bug eating: Ken notes that kids always want to know if bats will eat lightning bugs. The answer: No.
Nor do all bats carry rabies, another one of those urban myths. "In the wild, raccoons and skunks have higher incidence of rabies than bats," Ken says. He says in the past 60 years, two people in Wisconsin have died as a result of encountering a bat with rabies.
It's more important now than ever to dispel these bat myths and educate kids about bats' role in the ecosystem, according to the Wisconsin DNR and others interested in preserving bats. The DNR has undertaken an aggressive campaign on behalf of these animals as they wait for a fungal bat disease that affects hibernating bats to hit the state. The department has also proposed a new set of emergency measures to protect bats from the fungus.
White-nose syndrome, fatal for some affected bats, has not yet been discovered in any Wisconsin bat species, but has been found as close as 230 miles away in Missouri, as well as 300 miles north in Canada. DNR conservation biologist Paul White says white-nose syndrome could hit Wisconsin's bats this winter or next.
White advises families to learn about the disease, which causes hibernating bats to prematurely leave their cave or other hibernating spot during the winter in search of food. Then, if they notice bats outside in January and February, they can report the information using the DNR's online data form or by calling the department. They can also participate in the DNR's bat monitoring Programs next spring.
"Unfortunately, I think people will only realize the good things bats do after they're gone," White says.
For more about bats
For more information on Bat Conservation of Wisconsin or to talk to them about presenting an education program for your group, contact them at 608-837-2287 or email@example.com powered by Disqus
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.
Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.
If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.
I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.
It's weird to admit this, especially in a city surrounded by as much outdoor beauty as Madison. But frankly, I'm just not that into nature. I'm more of an indoor kind of gal. Give me an afternoon at the Chazen or the Wisconsin Historical Museum over the Arboretum or Olbrich Gardens any day.
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.