What to do with the kids? That is the question. If your kids are anything like mine, they tend to get bored doing the same activities over and over again. That calls for getting creative and hands on with activities. During the summer months especially we try to keep their little minds engaged so bonus points for S.T.E.M. type of activities. We are going to have to think outside the box, or jar in this case.
A couple weeks ago my husband got caught in the void that is Youtube and found himself on a channel about closed jar Ecosystems. The premise seemed pretty straight forward so we figured it would be a good chance to get the kids involved in the scientific process and get them out of the house for some good exercise and fun.
So what is a closed Ecosystem? Basically, it is it’s own little self sustaining world in a jar! It is called a Closed Ecosystem because once you have prepared it, you seal it up and there is nothing left to do but observe! This is a great way to introduce your kids to the circle of life and how an Ecosystem, just on a much smaller scale! The best part is how easy it is to set up and start.
What you need:
- A large glass jar with an airtight lid
- A small shovel or spade for collecting dirt/mud
- A small bottle to collect water
- Access to a body of water with plants and small organisms (most lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, etc)
- A magnifying glass to study the completed jar
And that is it! From there you just start building. First thing you will want to add is some dirt and mud to the bottom of the jar. This will provide nutrients and an area for plants to root and grow. Then you will want to find and add some aquatic plants, try to get the root and all when collecting them so you can replant them in the dirt. You will also want to collect some other organic matter such as leaves, small sticks and small rocks that will act as cover and habitat for the jar's inhabitants. Finally just take your small bottle and fill your jar up with water, leaving a little air on top and seal it shut!
Most areas of water are teeming with life and you will have picked some up in the dirt, some eggs and larva could hitchhike in on the plants and the water! Set your new Ecosphere on a ledge next to a window with sunlight and start to observe! The sun will provide energy to the plants which will act as food to some of the organisms as well as provide oxygen for the Ecosphere and the organisms in turn will provide waste and carbon dioxide that the plants will need to thrive. From here you and your little ones can observe as the Ecosystem brings itself into a balance. Not all of the species in your jar will survive and that is OK. Just sit back and watch nature play out. Will update about our jar from time to time!