Firefly Fun

Children will investigate fireflies.

firefly at dusk on a leaf

Lesson Objective

Children will investigate fireflies, including what makes a firefly different from other insects, and will create a firefly.


What You'll Need

  • Close-up pictures of insects (including fireflies and other insects)
  • 1" black pompoms – 3 per child (available at craft stores)
  • Glow-in-the-dark paint – 1 bottle
  • Paintbrushes – 1 per child
  • Wings (cut from black construction paper) – 2 per child
  • Cardstock – a 3" × 1" piece per child
  • Glue – 1 bottle per 2 children
  • Googly eyes (¼") – 2 per child
  • Black pipe cleaners – cut to 1" pieces – 2 per child

What To Do

Note: Cut the wings from the construction paper in advance.

  1. Display the insect pictures, and ask the children to compare their own human bodies to the insects’ bodies; both have heads, eyes, and legs (see Did You Know?).
  2. Have the children count the insect body parts, and then give each child 3 pompoms and the cardstock.
  3. Have the children glue the pompoms on the cardstock in a row.
  4. Ask the children to identify where the wings are attached to the insects in the pictures (thorax).
  5. Distribute the wings, and instruct the children to glue the wings onto the middle pompom (thorax).
  6. Have the children identify the insect body part where the eyes are located, and then help the children glue the googly eyes on the top pompom.
  7. Ask the children to identify where the antennae are on the insect pictures, and help the children glue the pipe cleaners onto the head for the antennae.
  8. Compare the firefly picture with the other insects, and ask the children to name the difference (glowing tails – see Did You Know?).
  9. Demonstrate how to paint the last pompom with the glow-in-the-dark paint, and then let the children paint the pompoms.
  10. When the paint is dry, hold the fireflies up to the light for a few minutes. Turn off the lights in the room, and the fireflies will glow in the dark.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe how all insects are the same.
  • Tell me something that makes a firefly different from a spider.
  • Explain what makes fireflies different from other insects.
  • Tell me why fireflies glow.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Find a variety of pictures of both insects and non-insects. Have the children classify the pictures into piles of insects and non-insects.
  • Place pictures of a variety of arthropods in the science center with magnifying glasses for further investigation.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Was each child able to make a firefly?
  • Could children explain what all insects have in common?
  • Could children explain what makes fireflies different from other insects?
  • Could children explain why fireflies glow?


Did You Know?

Fireflies, like all insects, are part of a larger group of animals called arthropods. Arthropods are animals that have segmented bodies, six or more jointed legs, and a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton. Insects are different than other arthropods because they have three body parts, two antennae, and six jointed legs. Fireflies are insects. Their body parts include the head, thorax (which is the middle part), and abdomen. Like most adult insects, fireflies have wings. All wings and legs are attached to the thorax.

Fireflies are different from other insects because their bodies can glow. Even firefly eggs glow! Fireflies are also known as lightning bugs, but they are not flies or bugs; they are actually beetles. Their bodies are brownish or black in color, and their glow can be green, yellow, or orange. Fireflies produce their glow or light through a chemical in their bodies that reacts with oxygen. Scientists think that fireflies light up as a way to advertise to predators that they taste bad. Fireflies also glow as a way to communicate with each other.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • arthropod – a large group of animals with hard shells outside their bodies, legs with joints, and no bones inside their bodies.
  • insect –  a small animal with a hard covering over its body, three body parts, and three pairs of legs.
  • thorax – the middle part of an insect’s body.
  • firefly – an insect whose lower body flashes with light at night.
  • beetle – an insect with a pair of hard front wings that covers a pair of thin wings.
  • glow – to shine with a bright light.

Lesson Tips

  • You can begin the lessons by going over basic body parts with singing and dancing along to the song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.”
  • Cotton balls can be used in place of black pompoms.


  • Fireflies by Margaret Hall
  • Incredible Fireflies by Susan Ashley
  • Sam and the Firefly by P. D. Eastman
  • Fireflies in the Night by Judy Hawes
  • When the Fireflies Come by Jonathan London

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS