Dragonflies: A Life in Air and Water


Earth is home to more than 7000 species of Dragonflies and Damselflies, the insect order Odonata. Dragonflies are familiar summertime acrobats. Less appreciated is the fact that all dragonflies start life in the water where they are voracious predators with amazing trap jaws. Explore aspects of dragonfly natural history including metamorphosis, migration, and mating. Resources include an interactive storymap, a lesson on living in water versus land, and a videochat with a recent college graduate working in a biodiversity conservation lab.


lesson, with additional 20 minutes to view video and storymap. One class period or less, and/or moderate length homework


Life science, Biology, Environmental Science, Entomology, Ecology, Evolution

You will need:

Printed Paper maps

Digital map files

Online half-earth map

Dragonflies: A Life in Air and Water

Learning Objectives

  • Introduce students to a charismatic group of insects that have successfully inhabited our planet with thousands of species. Dragonflies are especially useful for exploring the important biodiversity concepts of richness and rarity.
  • Students have the opportunity to learn about migration stories less familiar than the monarch butterfly or various birds and mammals.
  • Explore many fascinating adaptations such as dual independent wings, specialized jaws, and metamorphosis from an aquatic form to a flying form.

Key Terms + Conditions

  1. Aquatic environments
  2. Terrestrial environments
  3. Insect metamorphosis
  4. Species richness
  5. Species rarity
  6. Predation
  7. Migration
  8. Life cycle
  9. Flight

Top tips for Instructors

  • Have students explore the storymap on their own in class or as homework and then discuss what they’ve learned and ideas for future exploration.
  • The lesson on aquatic versus flying forms of dragonflies can be done in class or as homework and extending the lesson to include exploration of dragonfly species on the Map of Life (mol.org) website is a great way for students to see the huge diversity of ranges that dragonfly species occupy, from species found across the globe, to those that are endemic to small regions including within a single US state.
  • The videochat is excellent for getting students to think about the variety of careers in science, including helping scientists communicate their research findings.

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