Monday, April 7, 2014

Bringing Spring Indoors Part 2: Understanding and maintaining your terrarium

Now that we have made our terrariums, what can we learn from them?  They are definitely pretty to look at on the table, but terrariums are also a great way to teach about ecosystems and caring for living things.  In this post we discuss what constitutes and ecosystem and how to take care of your terrarium.

What is an ecosystem?

An ecosystem is a community of living and non-living things that relate or work together in an environment.  In our terrarium, the living things are the plants.  The non-living things are the soil, rocks, charcoal, water, air, and sunlight.  Our terrarium imitates the real world by producing "rain" inside the container to help the plants survive.  This is how it works:

  1. There is water in the soil, and the sunlight causes the water to evaporate.
  2. The evaporated water forms droplets on the sides and top of the container. 
  3. Once the droplets get too big, they fall down back to the soil providing water for the plants to drink.
  4. The process repeats again.
This is similar to the real world because there is water on the ground, and the sun evaporates the water forming water vapor in the air.  The water vapor travels up into the atmosphere where it forms clouds and can then rain back to the ground.  The process starts all over again!

Caring for your terrarium

Your terrarium contains living things- the plants.  Just like a pet, you have to take care of it in order for it to survive.   Terrariums are easy to care for, but in the first week, you need to keep an eye on it.

Watering your terrarium:
  • During the first week, watch how many droplets form on the sides and top of your container.
  • If there are a lot of droplets, you have watered enough.
  • If there are a few droplets or none at all, spray the soil with more water until it is moist.
  • If the soil is soggy, you have watered too much.  Take off the lid and let the water evaporate for a day or two.  Then put the lid back on and watch for water droplets.

Keeping your terrarium tidy:
  • Prune the plants with safety scissors once they start growing too big.
  • Rotate your terrarium once a week so the plants grow up and not toward the window where the sunlight is coming in.
Terrariums are fun for both kids and adults.  They look pretty, are educational, and are a great activity to do with your child.  It is an ongoing learning activity that encourages the love and understanding of our environment.

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