Thursday, December 17, 2009

10/25 Posts: Terrariums from Baby Food Jars!

So when you think Christmas, you think terrariums, right? Ok, probably not. But here in our house we've got a big collection of baby food jars that are just screaming to be used for something. (I want to recycle them, but our local recycler does not recycle glass anymore- boo!).

Truth is, I have been wanting a little terrarium for a while. I remember when I was little someone whose home I visited had a beautiful terrarium, and there was something enchanting about it. Plus, I have this odd thing for gnomes and little red mushrooms with white dots-- who knows?

Another reason I wanted to do this project is that we wanted to create a unique gift that the kids could create during the holidays that would last all year. They've already made tons of snowmen-- out of glue, of paper, of old tiles--; they've made ornaments, gingerbread men, and little outfits for candy canes to wear. Nothing against these projects, but we wanted to make something a little more special. These are not outright Christmas gifts, either; they're festive enough being green and red!

*If you are interested in doing this project, read to the end, and I got the idea from this page.

We did this project in two days with the kids, but it took some preparation in advance. Prior to the first day, we collected moss from a trail. We brought a big Tupperware and a few moist rags. We laid layers of moss between the rags, and put the moss in the fridge until we needed it.

Classroom Day 1- we created the mushrooms out of Sculpey. I was surprised just how much one little row of the clay will go, and the kids seemed to enjoy it. They created the most adorable little mushrooms; some had stripes, dots, ... just sooo cute! I baked the mushrooms later that day at home. *
That evening at home, Jeremy and I painted the jar tops. The jars had been soaked in very hot water, scrubbed, washed and dried. Rubbing alcohol removed remaining glue. We also purchased little stones and charcoal (carbon). We took a big glop of potting soil from a pot in the back.
Classroom Day 2- Kids put together the terrariums. I returned their mushrooms, they created labels with directions on how to care for them. The terrariums consisted of:
2 Tablespoons of rocks
2 Teaspoons of charcoal
2+ Tablespoons of soil
1 round of moss

Next, the kid spritzed the moss until it was damp but not soaked. They placed any mushrooms they'd made inside, along with plastic animals or little things for their forrest floor.
This was one of my favorite projects I have done, although it was more expensive and time consuming than I initially thought. We have plenty of supplies left over, so maybe I'll do this again later in the year; for now, I don't care if I ever soak another baby food bottle in hot water!!!
If you are interested in doing this project, here are some honest thoughts:
-I am interested in doing this again, but I am not a big fan of Sculpey. I did not like baking the Sculpey. It might have been because there were so many different thicknesses of mushrooms, so I had to check them at intervals and remove them. It was difficult keeping up with whose mushroom was whose, even with a number system. Really, though, it was the fumes that bothered me. It just doesn't feel right burning fumes like that- sort of seemed like I was burning plastic. I mean, is that what Sculpey is? I almost don't want to know!
-It is a costly project for a large class. I try to keep a class project to a max of $10-15, but this was much more than that:
$25/ Sculpey (enough for each student to have 1 red row and 1 small portion white)
$7/Aquarium rocks
Baby food jars- free (from Charlie!)
Soil - free (from my back porch planter!)
Paint-free (craft paint already owned)
Gift tags-free (from Christmas stash of wrapping supplies)
I thought for sure I'd have a ton of Sculpey left, but nothing is left.
-Baby food jars are a pain to get clean! I soaked them in hot, hot water and still some of the glue would not come off. I scrubbed and scrubbed. I finally used a little rubbing alcohol to get them clean.
What is most important is that the kids loved making these! They were so disappointed not to take them home that day, but we made them wait until all the holiday stuff goes home. I hope they last until next year!

1 comment:

Jane said...

Super cute! I feel you with the cost for large classes. I went cheap this year and we made paper mache ornaments. Holy time consuming mess! They were super cheap and turned out awesome, but I am worn out! This idea is perfect for small groups. Great for a birthday party-if you could somehow bake them?