Week of November 20, 2022 – November 26, 2022
by Sunny Guyette, Environmental Educator
For the Syracuse City School District 5th grade Ecosystem Exploration field trips, I like to take my groups to a pond located along the Boundary Trail. Next to the pond, is a bat house. Oftentimes, when I ask the kids what kind of home they think it is, they rightfully mistake it as a birdhouse. I always explain to the classes that we put a bat house next to the pond because mosquitoes will lay their eggs in the water and once they hatch, there will be a plentiful amount of food for the bats. One teacher stated to the kids that he was thankful for the bats since they help get rid of the pesty, blood-sucking mosquitos. I concurred and then called on a student who also pointed out that “bats spread seeds when they poop.” A few days after this specific field trip, I started to really think about what it meant to be thankful for bats.
Although we have historically feared mosquitos for the diseases they can transmit to humans and that they can suck your blood which can cause an itchy reaction to their bites, they are essential to the ecosystem. If we had no mosquitos, we would not have bats, dragonflies, turtles and some birds who heavily rely on mosquitoes as a food source. All of these animals are also pollinators, which if we did not have, we would not have certain plants and food. And then we also have to think about the predators of these animals like hawks, owls, and snakes.
This experience reminded me that everything is connected. Being thankful for one thing requires us to be thankful for everything. And that is one of the things that the Ecosystem Exploration field trip is trying to teach the younger generations– that everything is connected, everything is put on this earth for the same reason and that without one animal or plant, we will cease to exist. Being thankful for bats also means that we have to be thankful for those pesky mosquitoes.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we may be thinking about what or who we are thankful for, but challenging ourselves to think of what we are thankful for on a daily basis could help us gain a better relationship with the people and ecosystems around us. A practice that I have started doing more recently is each morning before I start my day I think about what or who I am grateful for. I also try to think of things in nature that I am grateful for and how it connects to something else.
If you would like to learn more about what it means to be thankful for nature, check out Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass. A chapter that might be helpful is Allegiance to Gratitude.
You can also check out these websites to learn more about mosquitos and their place in the ecosystem: