Make a Terrarium

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In this activity, learners make a miniature greenhouse or "terrarium" to explore the greenhouse effect. Learners will first construct their model greenhouse using a clear, tall airtight container, potting soil, small plants, pebbles, and filtering charcoal. Then, learners will observe the terrarium closely for several days, record how the plants grow, and chart temperature readings inside and outside the container. Learners are encouraged to compare their findings with each other. This activity can be used to introduce learners to climate change issues.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Model


Materials List (per student)

  • 1 clear, tall, airtight container (such as a large empty plastic jar with a screw top or a glass canister with an sealed lid)
  • potting soil
  • small plants (such as mosses, ferns, philodendron, pothos, African violets)
  • pebbles or broken flowerpot chips
  • filtering charcoal (not barbecue charcoal)
  • 2 small thermometers (about 4-5 inches long)
  • paper towel or cloth
  • water


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Geochemical Cycles
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth Structure
      • Atmosphere
    • Earth, Moon and Sun
    • Earth's History
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
    • Ecology
      • Energy Flow and Chemical Cycles
      • Human Impact
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Environmental Engineering
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
      • Heat Transfer
    • Energy
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society
      • Risks and Benefits
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
      • Technology and the Environment

Informal Categories

  • Gardening
  • Model Building
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Ology


  • All rights reserved, American Museum of Natural History,