Every year around Halloween, the McCracken lab sets up a booth at the Knoxville Zoo’s “Boo at the Zoo” event. We’re usually the only informational booth there, and we use the lure of free face painting to reel in kids and their parents. Once in line, we regale them with stories about the fantastic world of bats. To be honest, it’s not much of a challenge to get most kids interested, although their parents are often less enthusiastic. My favorite educational tool is a lunchbox filled with things that a bat might want for lunch. This ranges from plastic flowers and fruits and various insects and arachnids to a cow and a chicken (vampire food!). By the time they get to the face painter, they are ready for our one rule: it has to be either a picture of a bat, or else a picture of something that bats eat.
The charming girl above was trying out our new banner that lets them match their “wingspan” to silhouettes of different bat species; this little monarch is almost as big as the largest bat. We also have a sample bat house and information about how to build or buy your own, as well as information about threats to bats including wind turbines and white nose syndrome. Kids love it so much they come back year after year.