Friday, July 2, 2010

Make a Thematic Soda Bottle Terrarium With Kids

We live to have plants in the classroom. There are so many ways to make terrariums and we have done some in a huge tank as a class and others in small soda bottles. We have even created themed terrariums by putting small plastic animals, dinosaurs or knick-knacks inside from party supply stores. It's a fun economical way to include plants within your theme! Here is what you will need to make actual soda bottle terrariums with kids!

How to Make Soda Bottle Terrariums:
Materials Needed:
One 2-liter bottle of soda (with cap)
Potting Soil
A handful of small pebbles
Small themed toys (Dinosaurs, animals, etc.) 
A Sharpie or black marker
Seeds (OR)
Seedlings (small plants under 6 inches) this is optional if you want to start right out with plants in your terrarium, but this is what we use for really young kids who love to see instant results.
The Extras: If you want to make a really good terrarium you would also use activated charcoal and spaghnum moss. They prevent bacteria, rot and smooth water flow to give the plants a long healthy life.You can find it in garden or pet stores.
The Process: This is the order you will have the kids put the materials in. Again, some of this is optional, but great for a healthy terrarium!
1. Pebbles
2. Activated Charcoal (Optional)
3. Spaghnum or Spanish Moss (Optional)
4. Soil
5. More moss (Optional)
6. Plants or seeds. Pick plants that grow no more than 6 inches.
Prep Work: Draw a line around the bottle about six inches up. Use a neat little trick to make a nice straight line. Rest the marker on the top of an upside down coffee cup then I rotate the 2 liter bottle. It makes a nice straight line. Cut the bottle along the line with a pair of scissors. You may need to start a small hole in the bottle before you can cut it with the scissors.
Ready Set Go!: Kids can place a handful of stones in the bottom half of the bottle. About 1-2 inches deep is just fine. Have the kids place the other materials in the bottle in order. The charcoal then the moss then the soil. If you are not using charcoal or moss then put just the soil in. fill it to about 1 inch from the top.Now Plant your seeds or plants! You should plant 6 to 10 seeds and later as they grow you can pluck out some of the weaker ones and leave the 2 or 3 best ones. Gently arrange your themed toys in the soil. Now place the top on. We recommend you squeeze the top onto the bottom so the top is on the outside. It will slightly overlap. If you have trouble fitting the two pieces together you can cut a slit about halfway down the bottom half of the bottle. This will help it close up a bit and make it easier to fit the top over it. Voila, your done.

Taking Care of Your Soda Bottle Terrarium:
Sunlight: Explain to the kids that there are two important factors you have to consider when it comes to your terrarium: the amount of sunlight it receives and the amount of water that is already inside.
Once the plants have sprouted you should make sure it gets sunlight but do not leave it in direct sunlight the entire day. It is a closed environment and it can get very hot inside.
Water: Look carefully at the soil in the terrarium. It should look moist but not soaked or too dry. Beads of water should form on the top inside near edge and these will drip down the sides and continue to water the soil. If it appears to be too wet you can take the top off and leave it uncovered for a day or two.

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