DIY Tabletop Biosphere

Hilltown Families > Nature-Based Education > Ecology

[Photo credit: (ccl) Kevin Osbock]

Are you looking for lessons in biology with your kids? Try making your very one tabletop biosphere!

What is a biosphere? Planet earth is a biosphere, an enclosed, automated system with no intervention from outside the sphere. And while sounding like something out of a science fiction novel, human-made biospheres exist as large systems (i.e., Biosphere 2 in Arizona) and on smaller scales, like in a jar on your windowsill!

To learn how a biosphere works, you can create an enclosed ecosystem in the form of a “tabletop biosphere” with some necessary supplies and a trip to a local pond with your kids. DIY biospheres are both fun to construct and can help kids make connections between the processes and changes occurring in their small-scale biosphere with those appearing on a larger scale all over planet earth.

Everything within the biosphere is intricately connected, so it is essential to have all aspects of the system. Scavengers, consumers, recyclers, cleaners, refuge/shelter, photosynthesis, a pH buffer, and an energy source are necessary parts of an automated system. Understanding how biospheres work and supporting themselves is critical in understanding the delicacy and interconnectedness of earth’s systems, which in turn helps teach the importance of protecting and caring for these systems.

People of all ages can make tabletop biospheres, and it is a creative, scientific, and educational process.  Kids can engage in science, engineer a biological system, learn about ecology, and explore local natural areas.  Biospheres are also an exciting way to do a long-term, small-scale ecosystem study and observe how your creation changes over time.

Materials, instructions, and more information can be found in this pdf, Make a Tabletop Biosphere, the folks at have compiled.

If you end up making one, snap a photo, tell us what your kids thought about putting one together, and send it to and we’ll share it on our network!

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