How to use a small Terrarium as a Learning Tool for Kids
A terrarium is a great way to teach some lessons about the importance of nature, its interconnectedness, and our role as stewards in helping with the care. With something as simple as a small terrarium you can raise a child's awareness of the Earth and of the interconnectedness of everything.
There are three lessons that can easily be taught with a terrarium as small as a plastic container and a few bean plants. They are stewardship, the life cycle of plants, and the importance of interaction in eco-systems. I will cover all three of these lessons in this article.
Note that I also have a step by step tutorial (with a video) on how to make a terrarium for kids
Stewardship of the Earth
It can be as simple as a few bean plants in a Styrofoam cup but it is a living thing that kids will take care of. And stressing this point can have a dramatic impact. Kids will respond very well to the responsibility of caring for a living thing. The plants can even be elevated to the status of pets. But a very important thing that can be stressed is that the small terrarium is a small example of the bigger world we live in. And this bigger world is filled with plants, animals, and eco-systems that also need us to be responsible stewards. From the smallest of seeds you can expand the stewardship awareness out to encompass the whole world.
The life Cycle of Plants
Some of this will depend of the selection of plants but most common plants that are used in a terrarium follow a pretty standard life cycle that can be observed and understood by children.
Here is an overview of the life cycle of a plant:
In the real world eco-systems can grow to become tremendously complex systems of interactions where many types of plants, animals and insects contribute in their own ways. While you probably can't build a complex eco-system in a small terrarium you can display and discuss the importance of how your plants interact together to create a whole unit.
The best example of this is the sharing of, and competing for the resources of water, sunlight, and nutrients. This is particularly noticeable if you use different types of plants. Some plants will send out extensive root systems in an attempt to monopolize nutrients in the soil while other plants will shoot tall and have large leaf systems that can potentially block sunlight from reaching lower plants. Some plants will grow extremely fast in a race to get all the resources before other plants have a chance to take root. These factors are only a small part of the interaction that happens in even the smallest of eco-systems but they are a good way to begin the thought process for how plant and animal systems interact in complex ways.
Some Simple Recommendations
If possible you should use several different types of plants. This will show a nice variety in how things grow and a glass or clear plastic container is also an excellent learning tool because it will help the child to see the root systems as they develop. I also recommend you put your plants outside when they flower. This gives bees a chance to pollinate them. And this way the child can get seeds in order to do the whole process again which is another important part of the life cycle of plants.
A Terrarium is a very simple yet profound thing that can enrich a child's life in ways that are very important. It can teach a child to care for living things and to be more aware of the complexity of the world of nature that we live in.
Terrariums are back and better than ever! If you haven't seen this virtually foolproof and no-fuss way to bring nature indoors in the last forty years, you are in for a treat. Whether you live in an apartment, are chained to an office desk, or just want to be surrounded by green, living things, creating terrariums is a delightful way to combine the worlds of home decor and gardening. Terrarium expert and teacher Maria Colletti makes designing your very own interior gardens easy with step-by-step photos of over twenty of her own designs. Get all of the information you need on the "it" plants of today--tillandsias (air plants), orchids, mosses, cacti, and succulents, along with "traditional" terrarium ferns.
Learn how to transform basic designs using moss, air plants, succulents, vertical planters, hanging glass globes, and more into an unlimited creative palette. Once you know the basics (the plants, the vessels, and a basic understanding of soil, water, and humidity), you can mix and match for an endless exploration of your own creativity!
I have a tutorial with a video:
A Terrarium for Kids
Some guidelines and tips for great terrariums that kids can make. Includes a learning sheet that explains how a miniature ecosystem works.
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