THE BRAIN CHASE BLOG


Firefly Festival

fireflyJust as the weather started to turn warm this spring, I asked my five-year-old daughter, “What are you looking forward to this summer?”
“Fireflies,” she answered. “There’s no way they can get cancelled.”

Sadly, she knows the ways of our world. Plans change. People get sick. It rains on parades. Out of necessity, I’m constantly mom-lecturing on being flexible, rolling with the punches, dealing with disappointment. But she also knows the ways of nature. Every summer, the fireflies will come. No matter what, they will float and flash in our back yard, bringing a touch of magic to the close of each day.

Catching fireflies is a time-honored childhood tradition. They fly slow enough and flash often enough for even a 2- or 3-year-old to experience the thrill of capturing one in cupped hands. It’s even more fun to do with friends, so we gathered a few together this summer for a Firefly Family Night. We sent out an Evite telling which park to meet at, and to bring a picnic dinner and a s’mores ingredient. A quick Pinterest search found a simple firefly craft that a delve into my Easter supplies and quick trip the craft store made possible. I also gathered some roasting sticks, a list of firefly fun facts, some empty jars, a roll of netting, and some rubber bands (for making breathable lids).

On the appointed evening, we all gathered at the park’s picnic shelter. Families ate – and some cooked on a portable camp stove! – their dinners, while the kids made their Easter egg fireflies. My friend brought a pack of mustache stickers for the faces, which inspired some of the older children to give theirs French names like Monsieur Bugeyes and Monsieur Flashy-butt. As twilight approached, the kids dispersed into the surrounding woods, following and capture-releasing fireflies as they began their nocturnal rites.firefly2

Our group gradually migrated to the nearby fire ring, where we built a fire, then spread it out for roasting embers. We gathered to hear some firefly facts, like 1) Fireflies are not even flies, they are beetles; 2) Only the males fly around flashing – the females sit immobile and only flash back when they see a display they like; 3) They taste disgusting; 4) A firefly’s glow is bioluminescent – a biologic chemical reaction; and 5) The light made by fireflies is the most efficient light in the world – nearly 100% of the energy in the chemical reaction is emitted as light.

As the surrounding forest’s dark deepened, some other parents read the poem Fireflies from Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman and the book Sam and the Firefly by P.D. Eastman. Children meandered in the shadows, holding homemade and living fireflies. It was time for s’mores. (Do you know about barkTHINS? It’s my favorite chocolate for s’mores.) Marshmallows were lowered to the coals in a circle; kids added sticky to their already grubby hands and clothes. My world-wise five-year-old, whom I hadn’t seen in some time, appeared at my side caked with mud; I didn’t even ask. I just wiped her down with paper towels, handed her a s’more, and sat her on my lap, together watching nature’s light show that never gets cancelled.

firefly3Are there fireflies, or other seasonal summer wonders, where you live? How do you and your family celebrate nature’s little miracles?

Bring neighbors, family, or friends together with a summer festival of your own making – it can be as easy as having an idea and sending an email.

More firefly fun:

Firefly Flash Game – Watch and repeat firefly flash codes to complete levels and earn points.

Midnight Messenger Game – Help Li Ming collect fireflies to help her find her way through the forest.

Firefly.org – Learn everything there is to know about fireflies, including why their population is declining, firefly FAQs, read firefly stories, and learn about other bioluminescent insects.

Fireflies music video – Owl City performing Fireflies (Vevo) – it’s like a live action I Spy book!

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