Millions of bats have been suffering from the fatal "white nose syndrome" for the past few years. (Photo by Greg Turner, Pennsylvania Game Commission/Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey)
By Todd Wineburner
PONTIAC - Students at Pontiac’s Regional Alternative School learned in a science class that millions of bats across the United States were dying because of a fungal infection called “white nose syndrome."
Rather than only remembering that information until the test, however, the students have become activists and formed a club called A.B.E.-Alternatives for a Better Environment. Gary Norris introduced the students to the plight of American bats, and is supervising the club.
In some ways, the group formed by accident. Norris says he presented the original story in class and one student had several questions. Norris off-handedly told the student that he could be the president of the bat club and that the first meeting would be that night after school. The next morning, Norris remembers, “…a couple of students came walking up and said, ‘Hey, Mr. Norris, where were you last night?…We were here for the meeting.’” Norris says he realized at that time that the students were taking the issue seriously and that it deserved to be pursued.
Since then, the students have received grant money from the Livingston County Environmental Association that provided seed money for some fundraising initiatives. The group has now made two contributions to Bat Conservation International and they’re currently building bat-houses which they plan to sell to raise more money.
The students are also raising awareness of the problem. Norris says they have made presentations to students from other schools and to civic organizations in Pontiac. If you’d like to make a contribution or learn more about the effort, contact the Regional Alternative School in Pontiac at (815) 844-2512.
Todd Wineburner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.