Ready-To-Use Teaching Ideas
- Large clear plastic cups
- Plastic shoeboxes or glass aquariums
- Potting soil
- Gravel or small stones
- Plastic wrap
- Spray water bottles
- Small houseplants or cuttings
- Moss and ferns
- Small toy people/animals (optional)
Objective: Children will use observation, experimentation, and prediction skills as they create a natural setting.
In Advance: Collect cuttings from plants you may have at home invite families to send some from their homes. A local florist might also donate small cuttings.
- Gather a small group together and show them the plant cuttings. Explain that you'll use them in a terrarium. Show children a completed terrarium and point out that it's a little like a piece of nature. Talk about what you find when you dig in the ground or walk in a garden. Show children how a terrarium is made up of the same things - dirt, rocks, plants, water, and air.
- Give each child a plastic cup and ask each to place a small amount of gravel in the bottom, then add soil and stones. Be sure children don't add too much. When the plants are added they should be well below the top of the cup to create a protected environment.
- Next, take a cutting and help children identify the roots. Have each child place one or two cuttings in the soil, checking to be sure the roots are covered.
- Add some moss around the plants to help hold water, then have children spray the plants lightly with water. Place the terrariums in a sunny window.
- As children observe their plants over time, discuss what they think makes the plants grow. Ask children to predict what would happen if they kept a terrarium in the sunlight, but didn't water it, or if they gave a plant water but kept it in a dark closet. Test both scenarios with extra terrariums that you have made. What can children conclude about what plants need?
For younger children: Use a plastic shoebox or glass aquarium to make a bigger terrarium. In the larger space, children can create hills and valleys, and add props to create a scene. Keep in the moisture by covering the top with plastic wrap, and spray only when the dirt appears dry.
For older children: Create a chart that illustrates the different plant cuttings in the terrariums and list weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4. Have children monitor the different plants as they grow. Help them illustrate the plants' growth on the chart. Encourage children to compare the rates of growth of different plants each week.
REMEMBER: This is a good time to talk about pollution and why it's important to recycle and do other things to protect nature. Point out that your terrariums are free of garbage and pollution. Encourage children to think of things people can do to make the earth cleaner and healthier.
The Reason for a Flower by Ruth Heller
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle