Fallston Girl Scouts build bat boxes for Silver Award

Two Girl Scouts have created and installed six "bat boxes" on two buildings in the historic Edgeley Grove Farm in Fallston to give bats a place to shelter and protect their young.

"Bats help with the environment in many ways, such as eating bugs — they're also pollinators," Sarah Kuehn, 14, of Fallston, said.

"They support the ecosystem," her fellow Girl Scout, Lily Knudsen, also 14 and a Fallston resident, added.

They built the wooden bat boxes, which were installed Saturday, for their Silver Award project.

The Silver Award is the highest achievement for a Girl Scout of the Cadette rank, which is the rank of Girl Scouts in middle school, according to the Girl Scouts website. That rank is followed by Seniors and then Ambassadors, the highest rank.

Lily and Sarah completed eighth grade at Fallston Middle School in June and will be in ninth grade at Fallston High School. They have been in Girl Scouts since they were Daisies in kindergarten.

"They have to start brainstorming when they start middle school about an idea that affects their community," Bonny Knudsen, Lily's mother and troop leader, said of the Silver Award project.

Knudsen is the leader of Fallston-based Troop 4047. She and her husband, Matt, helped the girls install the bat boxes on the walls and under the eaves of the agricultural buildings on the farm.

Sarah is the daughter of Christopher and Kristin Kuehn, of Fallston.

The farm is part of the larger Edgeley Grove Park, which includes Annie's Playground, a climbing wall, the Fallston trailhead to the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail, athletic fields and working farm fields, where corn was growing Saturday.

Matt Knudsen measured and then drilled in long screws on which the bat houses would be hung, and then he or the girls placed the boxes on the screws.

The process took about an hour, and it capped two years of work for the girls. That time consisted of research, building the boxes with the help of another Girl Scout dad, Garner Leidy, of Fallston, meeting with officials from Harford County Parks and Recreation, even "paperwork," according to the participants in the project.

Matt Knudsen said Leidy set up a "production line" to help the girls build the boxes.

"He provided all the tools and cut the wood and taught them how to use the tools to construct the houses," Knudsen said.

The wood, which was painted a shade of green similar to that of the barn walls, came from pallets donated by Home Depot, Lily said.

The girls also got plenty of information about bats from the staff at Eden Mill Nature Center in Pylesville, according to Bonny Knudsen.

Sarah said she and Lily want to dispel myths about bats, such as that they all carry rabies.

"At least a very small percent are rabid, [but] they really do help the environment and they're very beneficial," Sarah said.

The boxes have a wide, but narrow, opening at the bottom, in which the bats can roost, absorb the warmth from hours of sunlight and have a place sheltered from predators where they can care for their young.

"We hope that people understand more about bats and their benefits, and they're less afraid of them," Lily said.

The girls chose Edgeley Grove Farm because the buildings get a lot of sunshine, but the location is secluded within the park, so the bats don't feel "crowded or threatened," Sarah noted.

"It's still a public place, so people can come and see them," Lily added.

Lily and Sarah have been associated with the park since they were children. They played on Annie's Playground when they were younger and they still walk and ride bikes on the trails.

The Fallston-area Girl Scout troops, which number about 25, have adopted Annie's Playground through their adopt-a-park program, Bonny Knudsen said.

A different Girl Scout unit visits the playground each month to clean it, pull weeds, spread mulch and plant flowers. Annie's Playground is named for Annie Cumpston, who died in 2003 at age 6 when she was crossing the street in downtown Baltimore with her family — they had attended the circus and were leaving when a drunken driver sped through the intersection and struck Annie.

The playground, built with funds and extensive community input, opened in 2005.

Lily and Sarah both said they are interested in science. Lily said she enjoys chemistry.

"I like school and science, and I like helping the environment," Sarah said. "It gives me a sense of accomplishment and helping the community."

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