The World in a Jar

Jarrarium containing dozens of shrimp (right).

When we think of our ecosystem, we think of oxygen, plants, animals, water, and many other necessary resources needed for our ecosystem to function. What if you were told open air wasn’t necessary, and you could make a sealed ecosystem that develops completely on its own. Well, say hello to Jarrarium Club, a club that revolves around the idea of these enclosed ecosystems. With last year being the first year for the club, many seemed to take interest in the club as there were “so many people [that] joined we had to hold the meeting in the north campus media center, but as the year progressed the club became small enough to move into a classroom,” says Angelina Stiles, Senior here at APK and President of Jarrarium Club. This year was a little different, however, as “the interest meeting is always like 100 people, but then they realize ‘wait, the club is actually shrimp and ponds in a jar?’ so then a lot of people leave. Which is actually a good thing; you want the people who are interested,” shares Mr. Fairchild, Sponsor of Jarrarium Club. Mr. Fairchild, an expert when it comes to making these jarrariums, brought up how he started making jars and how the club came about. “I’ve made them since I was [about] less than ten years old. Kind of just putting plants and bugs into jars. Then when I got older, I saw there were communities online making these ecosystems, calling them Jarrariums. So, I learned about putting soil and stuff in there to help the plants and everything. Also, how to achieve balance. My oldest jar is about 5 years old. When I met the kids, my first year teaching, 4 years ago, I was talking about my hobbies, and I said ‘I make jarrariums and stuff’ and everyone was like ‘what’s that?’ so I brought one in, I set it on my desk and they were like ‘this is really cool can you teach me how to make it?’ so after helping 5 different kids make them personally, one-on-one, I asked if they would be interested in a club and they said ‘yeah!’” beginning the incredibly interesting Jarrarium Club.

Space for Mr. Fairchilds “super secret breeding operation.”

Some activities the club gets to participate in is learning “more about how to create balanced jarrariums and the types of jarrariums. We create different types together. For example, at our last meeting, we learned how to create a terrarium which is a land-based jarrarium and as a group, we create a club terrarium. We also examine and watch things like scum from a pond and the life that grows in our waters,” says Joselyn Diaz, a newer member of Jarrarium Club and a Junior here at APK. The club also works on researching materials needed to set up specific ecosystems, finding out what “critters” according to Angelina, will thrive in that ecosystem, and then working on building that ecosystem. An activity that Mr. Fairchild has planned for the club is a “super secret” shrimp tank, “If I can have dozens [of shrimp] in that tiny jar then I’m going to have thousands [in this tank]. And we can distribute them to the club as needed.” He has the space set out for this future tank, and it’s considered the main project for the club this year. The tank will be more of a “breeding operation” according to Fairchild, it will be a 55-gallon tank full of small little shrimp, similar to the ones in his current jarrarium.

Jarrarium made by Joselyn.

Joselyn shared some of her personal goals being in the club, “My personal goal in the club is to create a jarrarium that has a balanced ecosystem and is able to survive on its own long term.” Angelina also shared some excitement she had about the club this year, mentioning plans for the club and goals for herself, “Last year we mainly focused on terrariums and freshwater jarrariums. However this year we are very excited about creating saltwater jars. Recently, I went to the beach and made some mock jars in drink cups.” Many of the members apply their interest in the world around them, rather than just keeping their interest in the club. As mentioned earlier the main goal this year for the club is the “super secret” shrimp tank Fairchild plans to have in his room, however, another goal Fairchild has is “to start breeding and growing things in the classroom [to make] it more accessible to the students, because I think cost is very rudimentary for the students.” While the Jarrarium Club may just be about making jars and watching ecosystems grow, there is also a community within the club, as many members share interests, “We’re all passionate and curious which is perfect when learning about ecosystems! Everyone just has a really great time geeking out over fish, shrimp, plants, snails, and types of pods and lizards,” shares Angelina.

As Angelina says, “It’s never too late to join the club!” meetings tend to be on the first Monday of each month. Jarrarium Club meets once a month. To get more information on the club, or if you have a general interest and want to see more, check out the Jarrarium club’s Instagram page @apkjars ~ run by the club’s historians Carly, Sean, Carter, and Nevin.

Angelina Stiles behind a Jarrarium
Mr. Fairchild and Angelina Stiles.