Bat kids

Charles Street School’s STEAM club has been busy studying bats this year and with their final project they are hoping to make a space for them in Palmyra.

Palmyra resident Jim Wence helps sixth grader Roger Zhang with a power drill while constructing the roof portion of a bat house for Charles Street School’s STEAM club’s final project.

Things are getting a little batty at Charles Street School. Throughout the year, Stephanie Shubiak, who runs the STEAM club at the school, has been meeting weekly with students to research bats and their environmental impact before completing one big, final project on the topic.

On Thursday, May 16, two groups of STEAM students at Charles Street had an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get hands-on with the topic they had been focusing on this school year.

“This is how we’re culminating our year-long project, by building bat boxes that will get hung up in the community,” said Shubiak.

Bat boxes are artificial roosts that are attached to trees or the side of a building to attract and house bats.

According to Shubiak, if they can get approval, they are hoping to install one of the completed boxes on school grounds and another at another location somewhere in town.

Collaborative projects like the bat box build are instrumental in developing students’ social skills and ability to work as a team. During the build, students each had a job to perform, some worked with power tools, putting the box together, and some painted the constructed boxes.

“When doing these kinds of projects where they get to be collaborative and work together, they get to cheer each other on, they support each other more and it just makes them friendlier toward each other. That’s why I love it, learning how to work together is so important,” said Shubiak.

The idea for the project came from Wendi Wence, a member of Palmyra’s Green Team and mother to a first-grader and a fifth-grader at Charles Street. She and her husband Jim volunteered to help with the bat box project. Jim was on hand during the build to help students with the power tools needed for the construction phase.

According to Wendi, the bat box project serves as not only an educational opportunity for students, but also an action helping the Green Team with its goal of securing certification status for Palmyra through Sustainable New Jersey. The certification is a statewide program for municipalities throughout New Jersey that supports local efforts to cut down on waste and greenhouse gas emissions and improve environmental equity.

“In order for (the Green Team) to advance their status, they have to complete so many actions throughout the course of a year. This is the Animals in the Community action that I volunteered to spearhead,” said Wendi.

The project was perfect for the STEAM club as it covers an array of disciplines. In addition to learning about bats and developing research skills, students practiced design by creating informative brochures about bat boxes and gained experience working with tools during the build.

Fifth-grader Carter May learned a lot about bats through the project and was eager to spread awareness about the benefits of inviting bats into one’s community. According to May, bats can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes during a hunt.

When it comes to dispelling negative rumors about bats, May has more facts for people who may be wary of the creatures.

“They don’t suck your blood,” said May.

According to Shubiak, STEAM club has been steadily growing in popularity at Charles Street since it began two years ago, and a group of fifth-graders participating in the build can tell you why.

“You can get creative, it’s not just one project, you can think about multiple things,” said Jisselle Martineze. “I like getting really creative.”

“I like the challenges. To challenge yourself is really cool if you’ve never experienced it,” said Michael Kozlowski, who feels he learns more when he is challenged the way he is in STEAM club.

“It’s best to work in groups too, because with all the minds working together, you can come up with great ideas,” said Benny Bullen.