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Make a Terrarium

One of the most important groups of creatures on our planet are the decomposers. They work with bacteria, fungus, and mold to break down old plant and animal material. When they break down these materials, they clean up what would otherwise make a giant mess and they return important nutrients to the soil to grow healthier plants.

Safety Note: Many decomposers are friendly, but some can bite (such as ants and centipedes).


  • Container that allows air circulation

  • Dirt

  • Dead leaves

  • Rotting wood

  • Moss

  • Isopod or other decomposers


  1. Create a home for the decomposers by adding dirt, deal leaves, rotting wood, and moss.

  2. Add decomposers. Isopods (which are known by many names including wood lice, roly-polies, pill bugs, and potato bugs) make a great choice as they do not bite and are not poisonous.

  3. Observe the decomposers-what do they do, what do they eat, where do they sleep?

  4. If you have isopods (roly polies), gently turn them over and check underneath them near their back legs. If you see two white dots, those are eggs. If you see tiny white bugs crawling around the bottom of your isopod-those are baby isopods!

  5. If you’d like to keep them for more than a day or two, please be sure to add enough water that the terrarium is damp but not wet and make sure they have at least two food sources(rotting wood and dead leaves are good examples).

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