06/12/2014 06:21 EDT | Updated 08/12/2014 05:59 EDT

Grade 2 class seeks to save brown bats from white-nose syndrome

Some elementary school students in the Bathurst area are doing their part to try to save the brown bat population in New Brunswick.

The number of brown bats in the province dropped to 22 this spring, down from 7,000 in 2011, due to white-nose syndrome.

The disease, named for the white patches that appear on their muzzles and other body parts, causes infected bats to wake up early from their winter hibernation.

They end up dying from starvation, due to a lack of insects to eat, or exposure while searching for food.

When Connie Ellis taught her Grade 2 class at Janeville Elementary School about the plight of the bats, they were bitten and became bat crusaders.

"I said, 'Well, what do you think we can do?' And from there, the list of ideas was incredible," said Ellis.

"So we've got everything from petitions, to letters to the premier and the prime minister, getting on social media and Twitter — the kids have created a Twitter page @MrsEllisGr2 — and we've done videos."

Ellis said her students have embraced the bats, despite their spooky reputation.

They've learned about their importance to the ecosystem and to the lives of humans — everything from insect control to farming, she said.

The 12 students will be holding a build-a-bat-house event this Sunday, from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. "They're things so bats can go in and have babies and all that," said student Aiden Driscoll.

Parents and other community members are donating materials to make the houses, which will be put on school grounds, said Ellis.

She's hoping that next year, when the students move on to Grade 3, it will become more of a school venture, she said.

The students are also raising money to "adopt" bats through the international Adopt a Bat campaign. They are raffling off a mini lighthouse they built, with all proceeds going toward adoptions.

They plan to track the progress of the bats they adopt online, said Ellis.