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Every week we feature a fun and/or educational activity you can try at home or in the classroom. We have recently begun mailing our Gift Catalog for this year’s holiday season and will be featuring activities that highlight the items available.

The Gardener’s Gift Basket in this year’s catalog can provide a family with tree seedlings, chickens, worms and soil, all they need to start a farm. This basket helps smallholder farmers leverage their resources by maximizing their land’s yield.

Photo Courtesy of Heifer InternationalThese farmers understand the relationship between the water cycle and plant growth. A neat way to teach kids about this relationship is to build a soda bottle terrarium.

Terrariums demonstrate Earth’s natural water cycle by creating a miniature ecosystem. They require little maintenance and are a great way to re-purpose old bottles, mason jars or fish bowls. Plus, they brighten up a windowsill with green during the winter. Choose plants that flourish in humid conditions. Carnivorous plants, such as the Venus fly trap, thrive in terrariums.


  • A two-liter soda bottle
  • Pebbles
  • Soil
  • Marker
  • Seeds or seedlings
  • Scissors
  • Activated charcoal and sphagnum moss (optional)

Begin by drawing a line around the bottle about six inches from the bottom.  Cut along the line with scissors. Kids, please get an adult to do this part. Line the bottom part of the bottle with pebbles. Next, add a thin layer of charcoal and a moss layer if you choose to include them.

Then, add the soil and plant the seeds. You want to plant six to ten seeds, because they may not all sprout. Later you can remove a few and keep the largest ones. Water the seeds, but don’t over water. The soil should be damp, but not muddy.

Take the top part of the soda bottle and push it over the bottom section. Push it down until it fits snugly and there is a good overlap of the plastic. Make sure to screw the cap on tightly.

Place your terrarium in a place that gets sunlight. Don’t leave it in direct sunlight all day; the inside of the bottle will get too hot.

There you have it.

For more details about terrarium upkeep, visit Terrarium Man’s website.

Read about Rose Were, a Heifer project participant who is using her four-acre farm in Kenya to teach other farmers about sustainable agricultural practices.


Lauren Bucher