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CONTACT: Matt Maisel
Director of Communications, City of Harrisburg
(717) 255-7295
[email protected]

October 30, 2023

HARRISBURG – Bats may get a bad rap for being spooky and scary freaky fliers, but it also turns out they are great for the environment.

That is what students in Ms. Jody Barksdale’s 5th grade science class at the Melrose School have been learning this fall. The sustainability education class, taught by City of Harrisburg Sustainability Coordinator Danielle Lewis of the Department of Public Works, educates children about the importance of preserving the endangered small-footed bat, a species native to Central Pennsylvania.  

The small-footed bat, according to Lewis, is helpful in eliminating invasive species and other flying insects.

“We came together during the summer to make plans for sustainable education in the school district,” Lewis said. “We are focusing on conservation efforts and connecting kids to green spaces in our parks.”

The class this fall is part of a pilot program, with the hopes of spreading sustainability education to 5th grade classes across Harrisburg School District next year.

On Monday, as the class culminated one day before Halloween, students spent the class painting bat house boxes, which will be placed throughout Reservoir Park and Wilson Park. The boxes will give local bats a place to call home.

“We’re going to be able to help them out so that they can stay warm, and stay away from other predators like owls and foxes,” said Omar Rosado, a student in Ms. Barksdale’s class.

The purpose behind placing the bat boxes at the two parks is to provide students and their families with an opportunity to observe the bat boxes whenever they visit city parks, Lewis said, adding that the hands-on experience will foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for local wildlife, while encouraging a sense of environmental stewardship within the community.

“The fact that they’re learning about things in their environment, and things they can see every day, they’ll be able to go see these now, and I hope and pray we can do things like this more often,” said Ms. Barksdale. “I think the more that the City (of Harrisburg) and (Harrisburg) School District can work together, the better it is for the kids.”