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Sierra View Students Go A Little Batty
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Normal 0 0 1 34 194 oakdale leader 1 1 238 11.1282 0 0 0 Second graders in Linda Kraus’ class at Sierra View ask questions of presenter Geoff Vassallo, left, and look closely at mounted birds and bats. The presentation related to a story the students had just read. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader

Birds and bats both fly, but they are very different animals. Second graders at Sierra View Elementary School recently learned about the similarities and differences between these animals during a presentation that dovetailed with a story they’d just read called The Great Ball Game: A Muskogee Story.

Second grade teacher Linda Kraus said that in their English Language Arts (ELA) books, students had been reading fiction and non-fiction stories with themes about “Amazing Animals.” Geoff Vassallo gave the recent presentation about birds and bats to Kraus’ class, where his son Sean is a student.

Kraus said that the presentation directly corresponded with the story that is based on a Native American tale of a game of the animals against the birds — or “the teeth versus the wings” — in stickball, which is a lacrosse-style game.

In the story, the small bat was rejected by both sides, it didn’t fit in with the birds because it had teeth, but it also didn’t fit in with the animals with teeth because it had wings. Finally, the bear allowed the bat to be on the animal team because “sometimes even the small ones can help.” In the end, the bat won the match for the animals because it was able to see in the dark and fly in the air to play the game, and as a result the birds were banished to the south each winter.

During his presentation, Vassallo, who is a taxidermist, shared a real bat skeleton, a mounted bat, and several mounted birds. He explained some of the differences, such as that bats are mammals and they have live babies that nurse milk. Bats all have pointy teeth, they are nocturnal and find their food with radar. He also said their wings are webbed with skin, similar to how a duck has webbed feet.

Vassallo talked about the different sounds that birds and bats make. He talked about some of the different types of bats, such as vampire bats and fruit bats, the different things they eat and how greatly they can vary in size. He also explained that some birds, such as hawks and some owls, are predators to bats.

He also talked about how to tell the difference from male and female birds, and how and why their coloring is different from each other. He also explained why birds lay several eggs at a time. The students asked many questions about bats and birds and had the opportunity to see the mounted animals up close.

“The children remember a lot more when they see it versus when they just read it,” Kraus said of having presentations.

Vassallo said he has been interested in wildlife and nature since childhood and he also does presentations for different grade levels at the school, including “sensory safaris” for visually impaired students where they can handle and touch the fur of some mounted animals.

Of note, he also provided the mounted coyote mascot that resides in the Sierra View main office.

Aside from the birds and bats presentation, Sierra View second graders also previously read a story about a police dog and then an area sheriff brought his K-9 to the school to do a demonstration. Yet another story talked about ants and an ant farm was donated for the students to observe at school.