Science in a Bottle is a fun STEM experiment for preschoolers and kindergartners to learn about the water cycle while making a DIY terrarium.
Science in a bottle is a fun kids experiment to learn about the water cycle while making a DIY terrarium and simulating rain. Most importantly, during this hands-on STEM experiment, children are learning a very basic concept of how clouds hold water. Did you know that the amount of water on Earth is finite and has been the same since the early formation of the Earth? Yes, the glass of water you might be holding in your hand could have fallen from the sky when Brachiosaurus walked through lakes feeding on plants. And, when knights and kings ruled the land, they drank from wells your glass of water could have been part of! Besides, that same glass of water might fall from the sky as snowflakes hundred years from now.
WHAT You’ll need to make this DIY Terrarium Water Cycle:
- nature’s objects: such as bark, moss, marbles, leaves, pinecones, acorns, chestnuts (you can also use pea gravel or potting soil)
- we also added forest animal figurines
- water and blue coloring
- cotton balls to resemble clouds
- gauze to seal the terrarium with a rubber-band
Since the Earth has a limited amount of water, the water keeps going around and around in what we call a “water cycle.” This cycle is made up of a few main parts:
- Evaporation. The sun heating up water in oceans, rivers, and lakes, and turning it into vapor or steam. Also transpiration: when plants lose water out of their leaves.
- Condensation. When water vapor gets cold (usually high up in the atmosphere where the temperature is cooler), it changes back into liquid forming clouds.
- Precipitation occurs when so much water has condensed that the air cannot hold it anymore. The clouds get heavy and water falls back to Earth in the form of rain, hail, sleet or snow.
- Collection. When water falls back to Earth, it may fall back into the oceans, lakes or rivers. Alternatively, it may end up on land, soaking into the earth. Soaked up water becomes a part of the “groundwater” system which the plants and animals use to drink. Alternatively, it may run over the soil and collect in the oceans, lakes or rivers where the cycle starts … ALL OVER AGAIN!
Children used a dropper and blue-colored water to saturate the “clouds” causing precipitation.
A terrarium (plural: terraria or terrariums) is a glass (or a see-through) container containing soil and plants, which is usually sealed. However, it can also be open to the atmosphere (similar to what we created).
HOW to conduct this Water Cycle experiment:
First, offer your child to fill the clear jar with nature finds (animals are optional). Then, secure the gauze to the jar, sealing the terrarium with a rubber-band. Thereafter, place cotton balls on top and saturate with blue-colored water. Observe what happens!
From this science in a bottle experiment, children learned that when clouds become too heavy, it starts to rain. DIY terrarium very visually illustrates how the water cycle works. Most importantly, children are exploring STEM while practicing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
On the other hand, closed terraria create a unique environment for plant growth, as the transparent walls allow for both heat and light to enter the terrarium.
This Science in a Bottle experiment was very illustrative to discuss the water cycle and how it works:
- Through transpiration, the moisture is carried from the soil through the plant’s roots to small pores on the leaves.
- Evaporation occurs when tiny drops of water transform from a liquid to a gas (generally due to increased temperature).
- Condensation takes place when the water vapor collects and turns from a gas back into a liquid.
- And finally, precipitation happens when a lot of condensation forms, getting too heavy and falling to the ground, as here in the form of rain.
If you create a sealed terrarium, the heat entering through glass walls would naturally allow for the creation of a small scale water cycle. This happens because the moisture from both the soil and plants evaporates in the elevated temperatures inside the terrarium. This water vapor then condenses on the walls of the glass jar and eventually falls back to the plants and soil below, representing a completely natural water cycle.
As the light passes through the transparent terrarium wall, this can also be a fun experiment on photosynthesis, which is an important aspect of plant growth.
Please, always supervise your children.