Ecosystem in a Jar – Making Your Own Terrarium

My kids are constantly insisting that they keep this bug or that.  My daughter is famous in our house for asking if she can have a jar – a bug’s worst nightmare as my husband likes to say.  Last year I managed to procure one of those large pickle jars with its lid from one of the kids’ Nana’s.  They had a great time turning this and a large mason jar, also with its lid, into terrariums where they can keep the insects they find.  Using our field guides and the internet we can learn about the life cycle, habitat and diet of the critters we are temporarily caring for.

Our terrarium one year later.

Here’s how we did it.  Use your own materials and resources to create your own version!

First, the kids and I talked about the purpose of a terrarium, how it works, and what should go into it.  This website is a good source of information on terrariums and shows a variety of examples.  They can be very simple or complex and the container can be plain or fancy.   Ours are simple and easy and I can let the kids do as they please with them.

Then we collected items we found in and around our house that we all thought would make a nice arrangement.  We gathered sand, soil, pretty polished stones, aquarium gravel, moss and a squirt bottle that would spray a fine mist.  The small plants my daughter put in them she plucked out of our yard!

Next, I let them assemble them in their own ways, just helping them understand the needs of the living things involved; as basic as the fact that the roots of any plants they include need soil.  Keep in mind my children were 4 and 2 when we did this!

Initially we opened the jars and misted fairly regularly.  Through the summer, both enclosed terrariums sat on our front porch, which gets strong afternoon and evening light.  Eventually, I noticed that they had become their own-self contained environment.  I was excited to take the opportunity to explain the water cycle to my kids.  It was happening in our jars and the plants were absolutely thriving!  The water cycle, in its simplest version, is the journey water takes from pools, rivers or the ocean, evaporating and returning to the earth again in the form of rainfall or precipitation.

At the end of the summer, when we cleaned off the porch, I brought them inside.  All winter they sat on my daughter’s desk, ignored and abandoned.  Recently a fresh green color caught my eye and to my surprise, the plants are coming back!  We can look forward to another year of collecting pill bugs and worms, beetles and caterpillars!


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Filed under Family, Natasha, Nature

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