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Gardening with kids

Terrariums are a terrific project for kids

By Tania Moffat

I put several small succulents together in planters and added some of my other small plants to the mini greenhouse. By adding some moss around the bases of the pots, I was able to create a uniform look and a larger terrarium for us to observe.


ne of the remarkable things about a closed terrarium is that it creates its own microclimate,

or atmospheric zone where the climate differs from the surrounding

them as a living science area.

They are great learning tools for chil- dren with the benefit of also being fun to make and easy to care for. Think of

project to do with the kids. Terrariums, like our own planet, Earth, hold in heat from the sun, the glass acting in a simi- lar manner to Earth’s atmosphere. They can be used to show a more basic system of interactions within an ecosystem to help children understand the more complex world we live in. While there may not be animal or insect interac- tions, children can observe how plants compete for survival. If different types of plants are chosen they can observe how each plant competes differently

28 • Dreaming 2016

for water, sunlight and nutrients. Some will grow massive root systems, while others will grow tall, large leaves to block those below them from receiving sunlight. Terrariums are also able to demon-

strate the water cycle to children. Sunlight

creates heat which causes

plants to release water vapour into the air (transpiration), as the water vapour leaves the plant (evaporation) it forms droplets of water on the inside of the container (condensation). As the water accumulates and temperature drops, the condensation drips (precipitation) down the walls of the terrarium into the soil for the plants to absorb; and the cycle continues to repeat itself. Children love taking care of living

things. Terrariums give them an oppor- tunity to learn how to become respon- sible stewards of their garden and the

earth. Because they are creating a

closed ecosystem, they are ultimately responsible for their success or failure. However, if your project fails, consider where you went wrong, and just try again. All ecosystems need the right amount

of water, light, temperatures and plants that require similar care, these tips on each element should help you design your own project. Containers: The wonderful thing

about this project is you can often find inexpensive containers at second hand stores, garage sales and your own base- ment. We found our containers at a thrift store. Fishbowls, globes from lighting fixtures, interestingly shaped vases, tureens, cloches, lantern cloches, bell jars, apothecary jars, Wardian cases, aquariums, mason jars; all will work. Containers that do not close will still

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