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Taking the Lesson Outside: “Building a Terrarium” with IB Students


When we look at the ethymology of the word “terrarium”, “terra” is earth, while “aquarium” means bell-jar in Latin. It can therefore be literally translated as “earth in a bell-jar”. From the botanical perspective, it is the activity of growing plants in a glass bell jar. Terrarium is not only an activity, but also a botanical art. It is a miniature garden inside glass bell-jars in various sizes and shapes.

Going back to ancient times, to 1827, Dr. Ward focused his studies on plants. After witnessing plants dying from dust and air pollution, he wanted to find a solution, which included trying to grow plants in glass to protect them. As a result of his experiments, he observed that some plants lived in the glass for a longer time. This is how the use of terrarium entered our lives.

Aesthetically, terrarium looks more appealing than the classic pots. It is an impressive visual tool to explain the growth of plants to students. It is a kind of an effective plant arrangement.

There are two types of terrariums, built in an open or a closed system.

In order to introduce the concept to the students, the ESS lesson for IB students was held outside the classroom so that the students see the own school garden from an ecological point of view, raising environmental awareness touching the soil and living things. On October 9, IB students in grades 10 and 11 grade had the opportunity to build a closed system terrarium in the school garden as part of their ESS lesson. We were very happy to observe that our students also enjoyed this hands-on activity.