Supporting the environmental education with fireflies (Sep 6, 2013)

In a residential area in Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, there is a biotope* where fireflies raised by elementary school students live in a natural environment as much as possible. The biotope of Fujimi Elementary School in the city was created in 2008 utilizing a pond in the grass yard by the fourth-grade students who wanted to see fireflies flying in the school, in cooperation with teachers and local residents.

How it started was that Mr. Yamaguchi, a teacher transferred to Fujimi Elementary School in 2006, brought some firefly larvae in a fish tank from his former school. This made students dream of making fireflies fly, and they bought a huge amount of soil using grant from the Nissan Global Foundation*. Then students and teachers worked together and made a ditch, and released firefly larvae raised at their classroom into it. On May 14 that year, they saw adult fireflies flying for the first time.

“Semisulcospira bensoni”, a food for firefly larvae

A hand pump set in a biotope

However, what students wanted was a biotope where fireflies grow naturally. Then they went to a place in the city where fireflies flied and studied their lifestyle. Students found out that abundant water, “Semisulcospira bensoni”, a food for firefly larvae, and a thick bunch of trees are needed for fireflies to grow naturally. And they prepared a plan to develop the environment for fireflies. They used the grant to dig a well and set up a hand pump and boardwalk. They also made a thicket by making a cutting with hydrangea, and hung curtains that block out light from the school building. The biotope was continually improved by the fourth graders every year.
In June every year, more and more fireflies fly in the biotope which is getting closer to the natural environment.

Mr. Yamaguchi says: “The key to increasing the number of fireflies was that Semisulcospira bensoni increased its number in the ditch with the increasing of the amount of water by digging the well. Now we make fireflies that flied the previous year lay eggs, raise them at the classroom and release firefly larvae every March. As Semisulcospira bensoni grows naturally in the biotope, we can expect fireflies will also grow naturally in the future,.”
“Students are not only impressed by firefly breeding and releasing, but also learning the greatness and harshness of the nature. They are also proud of Fujimi Elementary School with fireflies flying and started to think that they want to continue this activity. These are also significant results of the activity. I hope they will continue to cherish the nature, and eventually think of environmental issues through this activity.”

Fujimi Elementary School opens their biotope to local residents early June every year. In recent years, more than 800 people come to appreciate fireflies.
Their activity beyond just making a biotope, provides a good opportunity not only for students but also for local residents to think of the nature and the environment.

  • *Biotope: A compound term of “Bio” which means “living creatures” and “Top” meaning “place” in German. Space where natural animals and plants live.
  • *Nissan Global Foundation: The Foundation supports science education related to the natural environment and Monozukuri, aiming to create the educational environment where children can get familiar with science.

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