Today has been a bit of a biology bonanza, what with the leaf identification challenge that I set the children proceeded by some anatomy work on Crickley Hill.
The idea for our fruit bat stick skeleton came from an article I saw recently in our Nature Detectives pack, which the children receive as part of our membership with the Woodland Trust. The article had suggested making a human skeleton but Jenson was keen to try something a little more adventurous.
We arrived at Crickley Hill and warmed up in their lovely little cafe with hot chocolates and cake. We flicked through the pages of our brilliant skeleton book, (a gem of a find at the Red Cross book shop on the Bath Road) as Jenson weighed up which animal skeleton he'd like to make. He decided on a bat. A combination of the fact it looked one of the easier to build and also it was in keeping with the theme of the week: Halloween!
Once decided on a fruit bat we then looked a little closer at the anatomy of it. We had a think about what objects you might find on the woodland floor that would make good wings, ribs, eyes, fingers etc. We had a flick through our little leaf ID swatch and matched up leaf shapes that closest resembles shoulder blades etc.
While the children scoffed on cake I read aloud about interesting fruit bat facts. We learned that bats are mammals just like us but can fly just as well as birds. Their bones are light and hollow so the bats are not too heavy to fly. Their wings are made of thin skin supported by the long bones of their arms and hands. Bats cannot move easily on land. They crawl along using their back feet and claws. During the day bats hang upside down in caves or from tree branches. Many bats eat insects, but fruit bats eat soft fruit like figs.
Bats have a keen sense of smell, which helps them to find the ripest fruit. They also have excellent eye sight. We studied the size of the eye socket in the book and Jenson exclaimed how big it was. I explained that it helps the bat to see better in the dark.
We learned that bats use their claws to climb trees and to hold food. Their shoulder blades are large and strong, which help to support the big muscles needed to power the wing. Their feet are designed for gripping branches or rock ledges.
Fruit bats are one of the biggest bat species in the world. It's body is only 40cm long but its wings are up to 1.5m across when stretch out - about the same as an adult human's outstretched arms.
There are over 170 different species of fruit bat. Fruit bats live in tropical places like Southeast Asia and Northern Australia.
With the bat facts done it was time to move outside and start foraging for batty bits. With Crickley Hill being mostly ancient beechwood, we made good use of the thick carpet of gorgeous golden leaves.
We also found some interesting fungi species. We later identified this one to be a puffball fungus. Jenson loved squeezing it and watching the spores come out.
We are still trying to id what species this one is below.
Jenson came across these dead holly twigs, which was a super find because he correctly pointed out they best resembled the spindly bone structure of the bat's wing. It was great to see he had actually been paying attention and had been studying the picture of the bat's anatomy in the book.
He picked a great big bunch of them.
Here is the finished skeleton. Jenson found a nice clump of beech leaves for each shoulder blade, used the silver side of the beech leaves to create the skull, used a big brown oval shaped beech leaf for the large eye socket, used beech sticks to form the main part of the skeleton and the holly twigs ended up being used for ribs.
The next day Jenson did this pencil sketch of a bat, which he later made into a Halloween decoration. It has a striking resemblance to the picture of the fruit bat in the book and it was all done from memory. I was so pleased to see how much he had clearly taken in, from the spindly wing bones to the direction the skull faced to the way the legs came down and the joints of the wings.
Nearly a week later and I walked into his room to find him making another bat, but this time out of LEGO. He had pulled the skeleton book out of the cupboard and was busily working out how to recreate the joint of the wing. He had already correctly placed a claw at the end of each wing bone. It made the night time safari that Simon took Jenson on recently very relevant. It was an event organised by the Gloucestershire wildlife Trust. During their two hours in the woods they heard owls, spotted bats and even used bat detectors.