Are You My Baby?
This activity aligns with the following National Science Education Standards: Content Standard C: Life Science–Characteristics of Organisms; Organisms and their Environments; and Regulation and Behavior
Caves are home to a wide variety of creatures, perhaps none more familiar than bats. Millions of bats can sometimes be found in a single cave, many of them mothers and their newborn pups. Mothers usually give birth in the spring to a single baby, and because bats are mammals, each mother nurses her young several times a day. Scientists have found that in spite of the numbers and the darkness bat mothers manage to find their own pups. Each mother is able to locate her baby by recognizing its scent and call. In the game below, your students can play the roles of bat mothers and babies trying to find each other in the noisy darkness. Six blindfolded students will be the "mothers" and six others will be chosen to play the babies. The rest of the class will make up the bat colony. (Note: Make sure students realize that speed is not the key to success in this activity. Blindfolded students and speed are not a good mix and could lead to too many close encounters! Teachers should also be aware of any food or odor sensitivities or allergies among their students. Alcohol-based scents should not be used.)
- Cotton balls
- Variety of scents (vinegar, cinnamon, garlic, vanilla, perfume, and banana are all good possibilities, but see cautionary note above.)
- Six blindfolds
1. Select six bat mothers and six babies.
2. Give each baby a scented cotton ball (see scent list for suggestions). Each bat's mother should become familiar with the smell.
3. Next, assign each baby a distinctive call, such as a simple pattern of tongue clicking. Mother and baby should practice the pattern several times to ensure recognition of sound.
4. Blindfold the mothers.
5. The remaining students are also babies but without a scentor assigned call. Arrange all the babies in an open space with the six "scented" babies scattered throughout the group. All babies will remain stationary.
6. Help the blindfolded mothers to the edge of the group. On your signal, they should move slowly about the group in an effort to find their own baby. All the babies should call, clicking at random without a pattern—except for the six babies, who must use the pattern they practiced with their "mothers."
7. If a mother approaches a scented baby, the baby must hold out the cotton ball toward the mother's nose. No other contact should be made.
8. The winner is the mother and baby who find each other first. When pairs find each other, they should leave the circle. The game is over when all mothers and babies are reunited.
Adapted with permission from "Where's My Baby?" in The Educator's Activity Book published by Bat Conservation International. (See Resources in the article for more information about this organization.)