A terrarium is a fun and educational activity for kids to create with a neat end product that can be enjoyed with little care. These terrarium lesson plans are a great idea for celebrating Earth Day or even for creating a unique Mother’s Day gift. Since Earth Day is in April and Mother’s Day follows in May, these lesson plans can be used for Earth Day and the terrarium can be given away on Mother’s Day.
What is a terrarium?
A terrarium is garden that is enclosed so that water continues to be recycled for the plants.
My daughters’ fourth grade reading book had some instructions for a terrarium garden that reused a fish bowl and was covered with plastic wrap secured by a rubber band. We didn’t have an unused fish bowl and didn’t care for the durability or the look of the plastic wrap cover so we choose to reuse Mason jars instead. Another alternative that we look forward to trying is creating a larger terrarium in a glass ginger jar. A veteran teacher also shared with me an idea for reusing those large plastic water cooler jugs. She has had long-term success with water cooler jug terrariums but shares that because of the small openings, this type of terrarium is better suited for older students or adults as it will require some handwork with a tool such as knitting needles to arrange the terrarium.
As you can see, there are many possible containers for creating a terrarium and all of then emphasize reusing containers. The focus on nature and reusing containers and keeping them out of a land fill makes this Earth Day craft the perfect compliment to your Earth Day lesson plans.
Materials Needed for the Terrarium Lesson Plans:
Mason jar or other jar with lid or one of the alternatives mentioned above
Newspaper for covering the work surface
Earth day stickers, shells or gemstones are optional
What types of plants work best in a terrarium?
Plants that enjoy shade and warm moist conditions will work best in a terrarium. Good choices for your terrarium will include small ferns, moss, violet, begonias, baby tears or snake plants.
Part of the fun for kids in creating a terrarium is taking a nature walk to collect plants that they can use for their terrariums. In spring, children may find both moss and ferns. Before beginning your walk review the parts of a plant and emphasize that if they dig up plants for their terrarium they will want to get as much of the roots as possible. They can also collect small rocks for the bottom of the terrarium. It is also helpful to allow children to see the containers they will be using to give them an idea about the size of the plants that they can include.
Some children may have never heard of a terrarium. Asked them if they can think of a word that rhymes with terrarium and hopefully they will come up with “aquarium.” In the same way that an aquarium is an enclosed home for fish or sea creatures, a terrarium is an enclosed home for plants or a small garden.
Steps for Creating an Earth Day Terrarium:
After all of the supplies for your terrarium are collected and the work area is covered with newspaper for easier clean up, you are ready to begin.
Place a layer of small rocks in the bottom of the terrarium.
Add a layer of soil, several inches deep.
Add the plants by making holes in the soil. Add moss plants last to surround the other plants.
Add inside decoration such as pretty rocks or small shells. (My daughter even chose to slide shiny gemstones down between the dirt and the jar.)
Add water but not too much. The soil should not be soggy. If you over water the plants, simply leave the top off of the terrarium for a few days to allow the water to evaporate.
Optionally you can add small Earth stickers and stickers with Earth Day messages to the outside or top of the jar. If the terrarium is a Mother’s Day gift you may want to include pretty stickers that Mom’s would enjoy.
Caring for your Terrarium over Time:
Terrariums require little care. It is fun to watch the water condense on the inside of the jar and run back down to water the plants. If the terrarium begins to look dry, simply take the top off and add more water. If the plants start to get to big you can either trim them or transplant them to a dish garden or larger terrarium.
Terrariums are a great craft for Earth Day or Mother’s Day. Either way, you’ve helped a child enjoy a fun creative experience and a gift that can be enjoyed for a long time.
Spectrum Reading Grade 4
Interview with Dr. Louise D. Law