Eric Carle’s books are famous for inspiring art projects for children. His book, The Very Lonely Firefly, is set at night and lends itself beautifully to oil pastels on black. My students LOVED this book and related well to feelings of loneliness and the need to find friends. The Very Lonely Firefly is born at sunset and flies off to find other fireflies. It flies toward light after light, finding a light bulb, candle, flashlight, lantern, animal eyes, car headlights and fireworks. It is not until the end that it finds a group of fireflies and is no longer lonely.
Since the story involves a firefly moving from light to light we decided to create an interactive book where the focus would be on the sources of light, making re-telling easy and keeping engagement high with the movement of the firefly. These books were a hit with the kids who attacked this project with great enthusiasm and were justly proud of their finished products. We completed these books within 2×40 minute lessons. Topics such as light and dark or night and day are common in early childhood curriculums and this activity is a perfect accompaniment.
- Black card stock (5 pieces of A4 or letter-sized for each student)
- Oil pastels
- Ribbon cut into approximately 23cm (9″) lengths. I used gold to look like a trailing light.
- Stapler and scotch tape
How it’s Done (part 1):
- Cut card stock in half and staple 9 pages together to make a book for each child (this version needs 8 pages for the story plus a title page).
- The 10th piece is used to make the firefly.
- Students write their names on their title pages and number each page. We made them one-sided books because of pastel smudging issues, so each number was written on the top right hand side of each double page (see tip below).
- Staple one end of the ribbon to the back of the final page.
- Tape the other end of the ribbon to the back of their firefly so that the ribbon is trailing behind it.
- Give students their 10th piece of card and have them use pastels to create their own firefly. They should leave the tip (for their flashing tail) black.They can all be successful by thinking about the shapes needed – a circle for the head and long ovals for the body and wings.
- Students cut their fireflies out as carefully as they can so the firefly shape is clear.
- Students cut another black piece of card the same size as the black tip then colour it yellow or white.
- This is then taped directly behind the black tip.
- Fold the black tip up and the brighter tip should be visible underneath.
- Students can create their own flashing fireflies by flipping the black tip up and down.
- Students draw a picture of a light source on each page of their book. A simple chart with the page number and specific light source clearly visible will keep them on track.
- All these pictures can be created using simple shapes and demonstrating this process with the children before they start is enormously helpful (unless you’d prefer not to influence their drawings).
- They can choose to draw in a similiar style to the book or create their own style and colours.
- For the final page students can draw a group of fireflies. Since I’m artistically challenged I simply draw orange triangles, telling the children that the little lights were all that could be seen in my book. Some students inevitably choose to follow that idea.
- Students decorate the title page however they like.
- Then it’s time to share their books!
Issues to Keep in Mind:
- Some children may number their books as though double-sided which is not a problem except for smudging. They’ll just end up with extra pages at the back. If you want to avoid this, give each child 9 loose pieces of card stock, have them write their name on the first and then write a page number on each. Collect them together and staple to make their books.
- I initially used scotch tape to attach the ribbon but some didn’t last so I switched to the stapler for a much sturdier result. Some of the more vigorously engaged children sent their fireflies flying (literally) so those ended up stapled, too.
Page Numbers and Light Sources:
- Animal eyes
- Car headlights