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Super Science @ Your Library
image of a splash of water

Light Science:
Fireflies

Objective:

Children will gain a greater understanding of the uses and importance of fireflies and bioluminescence, light created by a chemical reaction inside a living thing.
Grade Level: K-5

 

Picture Book

Brinckloe, Julie
Fireflies
A young boy is proud of having caught a jar full of fireflies, which seems to him like owning a piece of moonlight, but as the light begins to dim he realizes he must set the insects free or they will die.
 

Information Text

Dunn, Mary R.
Fireflies
Simple text and full-color photos explain the habitat, life cycle, range, and behavior of fireflies.
 
Hall, Margaret
Fireflies
Simple text and photographs describe the physical characteristics of fireflies.
 
 

Activities:

Reenacting Bioluminescence

  1. Put some ice cubes in one pitcher and fill it with cold water.
  2. Fill the other pitcher with hot water from a faucet. Don't use boiling water.
  3. Bend each light stick gently (following the instructions on their wrappers and give them a shake to make them glow.
  4. Hold one light stick in the ice water and one in the hot water and wait a few minutes.
  5. The light stick in warm water becomes brighter and the one in ice water gets dimmer. The chemical reaction in the hot stick releases more light energy faster than in the cold one.
  6. Extra: Leave the light sticks in the hot and cold water. Which one loses its glow completely first? Why?

Reenacting Tribouluminescence

  1. Take a 6" strip of duct brand duct tape and cut it in half.
  2. Tape the strips together.
  3. Darken the room and have sit or kneel with the students standing around you to view the tape.
  4. Pull the tape apart and you will see a blue line appears.
  5. This line is an example of tribouluminescence.
 

Vocabulary:

Bioluminescence: (by-oh-loo-muh-nes-uhns) noun living light; light created by a chemical reaction inside a living thing.

Chemical Reaction: noun any chemical process in which different kinds of matter combine to form substances that may not resemble any of the original ingredients. i.e. oxygen (gas) and hydrogen (gas) for water (a liquid).

Cold Light: noun light emitted at low temperatures from a source that is not incandescent, such as fluorescence, phosphorescence, bioluminescence, or tribouluminescence.

Chemical Reaction: noun any chemical process in which different kinds of matter combine to form substances that may not resemble any of the original ingredients. i.e. oxygen (gas) and hydrogen (gas) for water (a liquid).

Glow: (gloh) noun a light emitted by or as if by a substance heated to luminosity; incandescence. (bioluminescence is the glow that is created by a chemical reaction inside a living thing)

Lampryidae: class of insects known as fireflies; the word means shining fire. fireflies are not actually flies at all they are flying beetles.

Tribouluminescence: (try-boh-loo-muh-nes-uhns) noun luminescence produced by friction, usually within a crystalline substance.

 

Additional Resources: