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Going To Bat for Bats

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While the craze over last summer's hit movie "Batman" may have peaked, students in Denver continue to be bats about bats.

With the help of the Colorado Urban Wildlife Partnership, students and teachers in the city's schools are building homes for a little-known urban dweller, the small brown bat.

The project began as a local complement to Earth Day events, according to Brenda Collison, education coordinator for the Colorado Wildlife Federation, a member of the partnership.

"We wanted something that focused on the nighttime," she said. "Since bats are misunderstood, we wanted to do an educational project on them."

So the group, which also includes the Denver Zoo, the Museum of Natural History, and other organizations, sponsored information packages on how to build bat houses. In addition to plans for building the houses, each package contains a book on bats and promotional materials for educational videos about the creatures. Over the last four to five weeks, more than 800 packages have been distributed to schools, scout troops, and others interested in the order Chiroptera.

Although not endangered, the little brown bat often loses habitat when the abandoned buildings it nests in are razed for new development. The bat houses provide a safe haven, said Carron Meaney, curator of mammalogy at the Museum of Natural History, clearly a bat fan.

"The bats are unsung heroes because they consume so many insects and because pesticides are such a problem," she noted.

Pattyanne Corsentino, who teaches science to 7th-grade students at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, said that most of her 120 students participated in the bat-house project. She plans to hang some of the houses around the school and under the Platte River viaducts.

"The kids are fascinated," Ms. Corsentino said," because it was something they don't know about. And with the 'Batman' movie craze going on, we couldn't let this one go."--skg

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