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The life and times of a home schooling mom of se7en + 1.

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Science Week: Se7en + 1 Tips on Building a Terrarium…

July 6th, 2013 · 4 Comments

As our school year ambles to a close, full tilt school for weeks on end… We needed a break four week from the end of the year. Sometimes you just need a week of nothing… so we took a week off but we still weren’t ready for school and winter descended from the heavens… precipitation like you have never seen before. Even my kids who have no idea that you are ever meant to actually stay indoors on account of the weather, were a little overwhelmed!!! So a science week was declared to catch up on all our science experiments…

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I had a plan this year for science that my kids would take control of their own science… all their equipment out and in place and ready to use… as they came across their experiment in their reading they would dive in and do the experiment. You know what happens to good intentions and well-made plans!!! Turns out about the one aspect of school that my kids really want to do with me alongside them is science experiments!!! So science week remains the way that we achieve our science experiments!!!
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A day of concoctions:
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A day of the human body…
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A day of magnets…
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And fierce competition…
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And even a scientific outing, when the rain stopped:
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And a close encounter of the natural factual kind…
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And we had a day of plant experiments…

Terrarium Tips


And the one experiment – the one… that I have put off doing for countless children. I avoided it with Hood #1, … all the way down to Hood #6… I always figured that building a terrarium required just a little more finesse than I was capable of. But I have been lulled into a false sense of security by a number of pretty pictures all over the inter-web. You will see easy-peasy looking terrariums, and I had no excuse… all the necessary ingredients arrive in our science kit, and we had a handful of sad looking succulents that really needed a home… I’ll say it again I was lulled into a false sense of security… Added to that numerous small children looking at me saying: “How come we have never done this before, it is in our science book?” So I took the leap and learnt a few lessons…

Let’s Meet the Players:

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  • A beautiful jar that you have treasured for years
  • Small stones for drainage
  • Charcoal for more drainage apparently
  • Potting soil
  • Little plants, we had a couple of succulents, but any plants will do…
  • And tiny bits of gravel – for prettiness of course!!!
  • Not to mention numerous small and pointy tools

Let’s Play the Game:

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  1. The first step, place the small stones and we had some gravel chips into your jar… and I have already made our first mistake…
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  3. Place a layer of charcoal on top of your gravel… and this is still fairly easy. Then add a small layer of potting soil… and you will enjoy little people happily joining in the project – at this stage. But take a deep breathe because one of your helpers might decide to stir all your beautiful layers together… might!!! But that is okay, part of the creative process and all.
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  5. Now you can choose: Either use your own hands that will never ever fit into the jar and long pointy uncontrollable tools to plant your plants… or use the agile little hands of said small person and willing helper… whose tool wielding is even more poorly co-ordinated than your own – if that can be believed.
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  7. At this stage you are going to get really really REALLY frustrated – so close and yet so far. As you plant one little plant, you will bump another and then one you weren’t even looking at will completely fall over. I thought I would just share a few helpful tips at this stage:
    • Put newspaper down on your work surface – it is going to get really messy – with tiny bits of soil, gravel, and charcoal…
    • Just let the idea of plants in a jar lying sideways go – let it go… an upright terrarium is just as satisfying and it is easier to plant anything if your face isn’t squished on the table in the gravel.
    • One plant is enough to prove that plants can grow with very little attention – or something like that.
    • Another tip is that slightly moist soil is a whole lot easier than the bone dry variety that blows clean across your jar every time you take a breathe of air.
    • My final tip is use a smooth sided jar, it is nearly impossible to photograph anything through a multi-faceted glass jar.
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  9. Once your plants are planted… you will want to place a layer of fine gravel on top of your potting soil and maybe add some pretty stones or features… Before you try this offer all your helpers a snack and send them way away to eat it.
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  11. Just saying, whatever tools you use… however long and flimsy they are – this step is tricky. Placing a small layer of gravel behind a delicate plant that is flimsily planted in desert conditions in a jar that appeared huge at the start of the project but is shrinking with each desperate attempt… tricky…

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  12. But it can be done – just…
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    And finally…

  14. Putting it all together: Put newspaper down (I know I forgot, big mistake!!!), use an wide mouthed bowl, place your layers in carefully, add your plant and a thin layer of gravel and you are done. With the sealed jar you have to remember to water it – never!!! Which is why it is the perfect fit for us. And with the open jar, you will need to add a dash of water from time to time.
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    Ta da…

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    You choose… in a bottle or a bowl, this is actually a fairly quick and harmless science experiment and a relatively easy craft. Not to mention a fabulously easy gift, I think we have hit on a winner!!!

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Tags: Science · Se7en at School

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sharlene // Jul 6, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    Thank you for telling how to make a terrarium. I have avoided making one as well. I also like the science week of experiments. I have trouble getting them done too.

  • 2 se7en // Jul 7, 2013 at 2:08 am

    Hi Sharlene, I don’t know why science experiments are so hard to achieve – everyone loves them, including myself… but we take for ever to get round to them!!! Doing it all in one week really does turn it into a bit of a scientific party – great fun for all of us!!! I hope you give that terrarium a try – it is worth it, especially if you don’t make all the mistakes that we made!!! Have a good week!!!

  • 3 Rikki // Jul 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    We always have a tough time getting our science experiences done too. We do the “science week” approach too. We still need to finish last years experiments, and we’re starting school either this week or next week.

  • 4 se7en // Jul 16, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    You know what Rikki, We never manage all of the science experiments but I have learnt over the years to enjoy the ones we do, rather than regret the ones we don’t!!! Some things we have to let go and be happy about that!!! Hope your new school year is fabulous!!!

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