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Make a Terrarium: Cool Science Project

written by: Faye Angeli Vitan • edited by: Kellie Hayden • updated: 2/16/2013

Make your own terrarium either for a school project or just for fun! Experiment with different kinds of plants and create your own little ecosystem. Simple step-by-step directions are included here.

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    A terrarium is a small landscape contained in a bottle, jar or pot. It usually is used to grow tiny plants. Some terrariums also include animals such as turtles. A terrarium is a good way to add greenery in small-spaced places because it can be placed almost anywhere. It also does not need much maintenance.

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    Materials Needed

    The following materials are designed specifically with kids in mind. (untitled) 

    • A medium-sized, wide-mouthed jar or bottle
    • A bag of soil
    • Some pieces of small rocks
    • Small figurines or small toys for added design
    • Tiny plants fit for a terrarium such as moss, small ferns, lucky bamboo, etc.
    • charcoal (can be purchased at pet stores)

    You may also ask some experts in gardening to advise you on what plants you can use for your terrarium. You may also opt to be the one to provide the kids with the plants they will plant.

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    Follow These Simple Steps

    1. Clean the jar or bottle with water. Dry it thoroughly so that the soil will not stick on the sides of the jar while you are making your terrarium. Your hands should also be dry so that the soil and other materials will not stick on them. (untitled) 
    2. Place a thin layer of charcoal on the bottom of the container. This will help absorb the moisture slowly when you water the plants.
    3. Put a few inches of soil on top of the charcoal. The soil should not fill more than a third of your container. Loam or darker soil is ideal for planting.
    4. Plant the ferns or moss while placing the small rocks around them. This will help the plants to stand upright. Plant the taller ones first before the smaller ferns. You can place the taller plants in the middle or place them in the back of the smaller plants. Do not use plants that grow quickly. Trim long roots to make the plants grow slowly.
    5. Add the remaining stones.
    6. Add your chosen figurines and toys. Other ideas for decoration include twigs, marbles, colorful stones or dollhouse furniture.
    7. Add a small amount of water. You can also mist the plants with a spray bottle to better control the amount of water. Do not use too much water because it will drown the plants. The charcoal can only absorb so much. (untitled) 
    8. Choose a bright spot in your home for your terrarium, but avoid direct sunlight. You can place your terrariums near a window if the sun does not shine directly on them. Artificial lights such as fluorescent lamps and bulbs are better for the plants in the terrarium than sunlight.

    To maintain your terrarium, spray or water the plants as needed. Trim the plants regularly before they go beyond the opening of the container. Poke the soil with a small sharp object from time to time to let the plants breathe. A terrarium may last for a year before you plant new ferns or moss.