Saturday, April 20, 2013

Terrarium Building with Students

Pseudo spring has us in the mood for green, but mother nature has another idea! Therefore...we're making our own little piece of spring...in a bottle. 

Tips for building a Terrarium with Students: STEMmom.org

Terrarium building is fun and is a great opportunity to teach about ecosystems and the water cycle. I built terrariums with my Ranch boys (where I volunteer) and with my own boys at home.

Building Terrariums with high school students: STEMmom.org

Terrariums are simple to build, and if you think about it ahead of time, you can reuse, and upcycle supplies that would otherwise be thrown away. I had the cook at school save all the large glass jars from items in bulk. Mine were primarily olive and hot peppers jars! 

Materials needed for building a Terrarium with Students: STEMmom.org

Terrarium Building Supplies

  • Large glass (or plastic) container with loose fitting lid
  • Potting soil mix
  • Gravel (sterlized)
  • Charcoal 
  • Small houseplants
  • Newspaper
  • Clean, soft, dry, paint brushes
  • Funnel
  • Water bottle
  • Misc. decorations; small rocks, sticks, colored glass, or shells.

Terrarium Tool-Building Supplies

  • Cork
  • Plastic spoon
  • Wooden skewers
  • Tape
  • Glue gun and hot glue
Misc tools helpful for building a terrarium: STEMmom.org


1.     First, you’ll need to assembly your supplies, including the plants you’d like to put into your terrarium. 

Sample plants for terrariums: STEMmom.org

2.     We found that making some specialized tools was incredibly helpful when building a terrarium. Extending a plastic spoon by taping it to wooden skewers worked well when we were trying to place the soil in a specific spot around the plants. And gluing a poker chip to a cork that was skewered worked wonders when we needed to tamp down the soil after placing the plants into the soil.
3.     Using your funnel, pour a layer of pebbles in the bottom of the jar. If you are working with students, remind them that the rocks may break the glass if the pebbles are tossed in to quickly. These pebbles provide drainage and air pockets for the roots of the plants. I sanitized my rocks by washing them, then placing them on a cookie sheet and baking them @300o for 15 minutes. Although, I’m not sure that is necessary.
4.     On top of the pebbles place a thin layer of charcoal. This absorbs odors and keeps the soil fresh. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

STEM Mom Speaking at Princeton University: Young Science Achievers Program

I count it a high privilege to be meeting with high school teachers at Princeton University today, who have been a part of the Young Science Achievers Program (YSAP). What fun we will have!



To access the Google Document that we will be using as part of the workshop click HERE, or on the image below. 

Here is the powerpoint for the event.






Friday, April 5, 2013

STEM Themed Linky Party #5



STEM themed Linky Parties: 1st and 3rd Sat of each month: STEMmom.org

Welcome to STEM Mom's Linky Party!  

In the spirit of STEM, any science, technology, engineering, or mathematics activities for ANY age are welcome to be entered in the STEM Mom Linkys. Note: Links that are not STEM related will be deleted. If this is you first STEM linky party visit, you can read more about the linky party requirements.

When you link up, grab a button and place it at the bottom of your post! Please be sure that you link to the specific post url, not your homepage. 

Thanks so much.  Looking forward seeing what you all have to share! If the linky is closed, check my linky page to see when the next party opens.

the STEM Mom





Wednesday, April 3, 2013

STEM Linky Winner-Apple Rotting

I'm featuring Jmommymom from Highhill Homeschool for her post on Rotting Apples.  

Rotting Apples: Highhill Homeschool Featured on STEM Mom

Several things stand out to me about this post. First, she was willing to put up the smell in order to do science...so Kudos! Secondly, she has a sound research design. As you can see from her photo, she placed apple slices above differing substances (go read her post for details), but the glass on the far right, is just an apple on top of a glass with nothing in it. This is her control and is often as aspect of an experiment that people forget. The control is needed so we can compare the results of the experimental groups to what "normally" happens. All the groups need to be the same in every way, only changing ONE variable. In this experiment, the independent variable is the liquid substance that may affect rotting. Everything else is the same; Apple slice, amount of liquid in the glasses, size of the glass etc... And the control has the apple over an empty glass. 

This apple rotting experiment is the kind of GOOD science we should all be exposing our kids to! Well done JMommymom, and thanks for linking up.

The next Linky party begins this Saturday. For a complete list of STEM-themed linky parties, visit my Linky Party Page.


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