Growing Minds Day by Day: Week of June 8

This week’s theme is fireflies. Our “Growing Minds Day by Day” educational resource lists are designed for families and educators to use during the COVID-19 quarantine and beyond. 

Growing Minds Day by Day

Week of June 8, 2020 – Fireflies (aka Lightning Bugs)

We hope these resources will provide you with inspiration as you navigate the world of social distancing and home-schooling. If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, be sure to check out our Lesson Plans page. 

Books for Monday, 6/8: Explore the world of fireflies with young readers

It’s a Firefly Night: Our first book recommendation this week is It’s a Firefly Night written by Dianne Ochiltree and illustrated by Betsy Snyder. Geared towards children ages 3-6, this is a sweet story about a little girl who spends a special summer evening outside with her father, catching (and releasing!) fireflies. The book concludes by sharing interesting facts about fireflies with readers. Watch a read aloud on YouTube



Lucy’s Light: Our next recommendation is a beautifully illustrated book, Lucy’s Light, written by Margarita Del Mazo and illustrated by Silvia Alvarez. Lucy is a young firefly who lives in a strong tree in the forest, getting ready for the day when she will shine like the other fireflies. When it’s finally time for Lucy to leave the tree with her family, she becomes very nervous. Eventually Lucy learns to face her fears and she lights up the forest with her own unique light. Watch a read aloud on YouTube. 


The Very Lonely Firefly: Finally, watch a read aloud of the classic picture book The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle. When a lonely firefly goes out into the night searching for other fireflies, it finds a lantern, a candle, and the eyes of a dog, cat, and owl all glowing in the darkness. It even sees a surprise celebration of light. But it is not until it discovers other fireflies that it finds exactly what it’s looking for. 

Find more books: Looking for more garden-themed children’s books? Visit the Growing Minds’ farm to school literature database to browse our recommendations. Type “insects” or “summer” into the search bar to find books that align with this week’s theme. 


Recipe for Tuesday, 6/9: Berry Good Summer Smoothie

While the summer solstice is still a couple weeks away, the fireflies have started flashing in the evenings and it sure does feel like summer. To kick off the season, make this smoothie with whatever fresh, local berries you have on hand. For a taste of summer year round, freeze local berries when they’re at their peak ripeness. 

Your kids can help whip up this healthy, refreshing snack by measuring the milk and yogurt, peeling the banana, and washing and de-stemming the strawberries. 

This is a great recipe to make after a trip to your backyard berry patch or local farm. While many u-pick farms have closed their doors to visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, some farms are setting up precautions that will allow community members to pick safely. Reach out directly to u-pick farms in our Appalachian Grown region via ASAP’s online Local Food Guide to find out what their plans are this year. 

Berry Good Summer Smoothie
Serves 1 adult or 2 children


  • 1 banana, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup strawberries (or berries of your choice), fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup milk or non-dairy milk of your choice
  • ½ cup yogurt


  1. Peel the banana. Wash and cut off the tops of the strawberries.
  2. Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Pour into a tall glass (or divide between two smaller glasses) and sip up the sunshine!


Online Resources for Wednesday, 6/10: Virtual Firefly Experiences

Fireflies in the Smokies: Fireflies—commonly referred to as lightning bugs by people in the Southern US—are actually beetles, not flies. Adults live for just a few weeks each year, but their presence is one of the most memorable and magical parts of summer. Fireflies are bioluminescent, meaning that they are living organisms that can produce and emit light. They use their flashing lights to signal to each other and to potential predators. 

The Smoky Mountains are home to at least 19 species of fireflies, including the renowned synchronous fireflies and blue ghosts. Each species of firefly has its own signature flash pattern, which it uses to communicate with other members of its species in order to find a good mate. Male synchronous fireflies flash their lights in sync with other males, while blue ghosts seem to leave a bluish trail of light floating behind them as they fly. Each spring in May or June, Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts a synchronous firefly viewing event where visitors can enjoy the magnificent light show put on by the park’s fireflies. 

Virtual Firefly Experience: This year the Smokies’ in-person firefly event was cancelled in 2020 to the COVID-19 pandemic, so conservation organization Discover Life in America (DLIA) presented a Virtual Fireflies Event. The virtual event is available to watch on YouTube. It begins with a 14-minute educational presentation on fireflies, and is followed by a beautiful “firefly experience” filmed in the Smokies. For optimal firefly viewing, watch the video at night, with all lights turned off, in full screen mode. 

Learn more about fireflies:

  • National Geographic: Explore basic firefly facts. 
  • Like many insect populations, fireflies are in danger. Find out what you and your family can do to protect fireflies and the habitats they need to survive.
  • Smoky Mountains National Park: Learn more about the fireflies that call the Smoky Mountains home. 

Growing Minds Lesson Plans: 

  • Insect Exploration: children will learn about the many types of insects that live in the garden and their characteristics. They’ll explore insect facts and learn to distinguish between true insects and other small creatures, such as spiders and worms. 
  • Insects in the Garden (preschool): children will take a bug walk in the yard or garden to locate insects and other bugs. They’ll learn how to observe (rather than harm) living things in the garden and natural environment. Bring paper and crayons on your bug walk and invite your child to record their observations of the bugs they find. 
  • This Week in the Garden: Check out our TWIG newsletter for the second week in June for more garden activities and a seasonal zucchini stir fry recipe featuring local summer squash, our Growing Minds “Get Local” product of the month. 

Activities for Thursday, 6/11: Make Your Own Firefly!

Since fireflies don’t start flashing until twilight, young children may not have the chance to see them before bedtime. With a little help from adults, kids can design and build their own adorable glowing firefly toy using the following supplies: 

  • Empty clear water/soda bottle
  • Yellow construction paper (to make the body of your firefly) 
  • Black sharpie marker (to draw a face and outline or decorate the wings)
  • Black pipe cleaners (to make 6 legs and 2 antenna)
  • Plastic wrap/film, white construction paper, or white tissue paper (for wings)
  • Glowstick (to make your firefly glow!)
  • String (to hang up your firefly, if you like)
  • Scotch tape


Freaky Friday, 6/12: Sending Messages in the Dark

Fireflies use their unique flashing light patterns to communicate with each other. Did you know that people have also created a special code of flashing lights (or pulsing sounds) that can be used to communicate with each other? This system is called Morse code. In Morse code, each letter of the alphabet corresponds to its own unique pattern of dashes (long flashes of light) and dots (short flashes of light). People communicate by spelling out words using the Morse code alphabet. For example, this is how you would say “hello”:

•••• •—•• •—•• ———

Do you think you could successfully communicate with someone else using Morse code? Find a friend or family member, two flashlights, and the Morse code alphabet chart (click here for a printable version) and try to send messages to each other using only flashing lights. You’ll be communicating like a firefly!


Be sure to check back next week for new resources! Click here to access Day by Day resources from past weeks.

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