Cranbrook is using superheroes to educate about bats

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Cranbrook's Organization for Bat Conservation has enlisted the help of Oakland University students to create an exhibit that aims to educate the public about possibly the world's most misunderstood mammals with a new exhibit called BATS: Superheroes of the Night.

The work was created by students Lindsay Quinn, Hadear Mikho, and Derek Sands as part of a course called Good Community Design taught by Meaghan Barry. Each year, the class works with a different nonprofit. 

The students used a superhero conceit to teach attendees why it's important to "help save the bats." (The idea of mysterious caped heroes flying around the city at night relates particularly well to bats, as evidenced by the longstanding popularity of Batman.)

"It's a playful take on a really important issue," says Danielle Todd, the OFBC's communications director. "The exhibit takes a superhero feel to make it engaging to the public and to bring in kids and adults in fun way. But really, the important message is that bats are important and they are worth protecting. They’re in trouble, and there are things people can do to help protect them."

The exhibit educates about the "villains" that threaten bats, represented by characters like "The Invader" (a stand-in for the fungus that causes the deadly "white nose syndrome" in bats) and "Lady Poison" (the pesticides and other pollution that disrupt the ecosystem). 

In addition to the creative use of branding, the main draw is the live bat displays. On view are five different live bats, offering the public a rare chance to see these creatures up close. The bats' sleeping schedules are reversed by using red lights, which are invisible to nocturnal creatures. We stopped by and were amused to see bats hanging upside-down as they groomed each other, and chirping as they flew around their cages.

The exhibit serves a dual purpose — in addition to allowing a larger 5,000-square-foot space, it gives the Organization for Bat Conservation a chance to do some renovations to their regular home, the nearby 2,000-square-foot Bat Zone. The plan is to make simple renovations to the building's climate control systems, but also incorporate some new signage and messaging for future visitors.

"BATS: Superheroes of the Night" is open during regular hours at the Cranbrook Institute of Science; 248-645-3200; more information available at the official site; tickets for non-members are $5, seniors and ages 2-12 is $4, and free under age 2; runs through June 19, 2016. 

Read our interview from last year with the Organization for Bat Conservation's Rob Mies here.

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