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John James Audubon filled his artwork with birds and plant life. Look closer: they also contain insects. Drawn life-size, the Audubon prints on view at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art feature tiny bugs that tell us amazing details about the bird’s environment. How many insects can you find?

You can make a firefly using the art of paper folding — origami (aw-ruh-gaa-mee). In traditional origami, artists fold a single paper square into a sculpture without cutting, gluing, taping or marking the paper. Electricity powers the firefly. The energy travels along a copper tape path – a circuit – from the battery to the light. You can make the firefly blink on and off by breaking the flow along the circuit.

What You’ll Need

Origami paper

Copper tape

3V lithium battery

LED light

Scotch Tape

Part 1: Origami Firefly Construction

Fold the square of paper diagonally, bringing two opposite corners together.

With the right angle facing up, fold the left and right corners up to the center.

Flip vertically, and fold back the top corner to the center. Fold upwards, approximately one centimeter away from your previous fold, creating the head of your firefly.


Take the left and right side corners and fold them towards the center. The origami firefly is now complete.


Part 2: Build the Paper Circuit

We need to fold open the wings to start the paper circuit. To do this, flip your firefly over and fold the wings outward. These folds will allow you to open and close the circuit, turning the lightbulb on and off.


Place your two pieces of copper tape as pictured. Place your battery positive side down on top of the cooper tape on the left.


When securing your battery with Scotch tape, be sure the right side of the battery is exposed. When you close your firefly, the copper tape on the right should touch the battery.


The light bulb has a longer prong and a shorter prong. The longer prong is positive, and the shorter prong is negative. Tape the positive prong on the left piece of copper and the negative prong on the right piece of copper.


Fold your wings. As the copper tape on the right-wing touches the battery, your light should glow. Your firefly and the circuit are complete.

Be sure to post your firefly on Instagram or Facebook, and tag @JCSMAuburn. Explore the “Outside In” through Sunday, January 2, 2022, and experience Audubon etchings alongside specimens from the Museum of Natural History.

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