Pupil copes with online fatigue by escaping to his little world

UNLIKE many his age, Andre Lee Ning knows that nature makes for a better companion than digital devices.

Creating terrariums started out as a hobby for the 11-year-old but when classes moved online because of the pandemic and he found himself glued to the screen for hours on end, Andre’s pastime soon turned into a passion.Mini ecosystem: Lee admiring the terrariums he created.Mini ecosystem: Lee admiring the terrariums he created.

“I began creating these micro ecosystems in jars about a year ago, prior to the movement control order.

“Now this hobby has become a pathway to reduce my time on my digital devices, ” he told StarEdu.

The boy from urban Petaling Jaya let on that his interest in terrariums actually stemmed from his fascination with beetles and mother nature.

“In understanding the life cycle of beetles, I also learnt about their origin and habitats, and the conditions and temperatures required for them to survive, ” he said, adding that this indirectly helped him understand how important the forest is to preserve nature.

“I noticed these lovely terrariums every time I visited a shop that sold beetles. I was in awe of the way they looked and how their designs were created in jars, ” he said.

Terrariums, he said, are self-contained ecosystems that are self-sufficient and only require watering once every six months at a minimum.

As a novice, he took up a starter terrarium kit equipped with instructions, and created his first terrarium.

It was a small jar measuring 6cm in diameter and 10cm in height, and made of layers of rocks, charcoal and soil with some moss on the surface.

“There were no plants involved as it was about getting the moss to bloom, ” he added.

Sadly, the first terrarium turned out to be a failed attempt, he said.

Even after three of his terrariums did not survive, Lee did not give up. Instead, he set about identifying the problem and did research on ways to improve the design.

To date, his mother Adelene Anthony, 44, said, he has created 17 terrariums, six of which having been sold to one of his biggest supporters – his aunt.

Lee watches instructional videos online to learn more about terrariums. He spends between five minutes and two hours to create one terrarium, depending on its size and how fast he gets a design idea.

“The time to make a terrarium is fast, but to get him to make one takes a while. He says that he needs to have an idea readily in mind before starting on them, ” said Adelene with a laugh.

“Loving nature has always been second nature to him. Since young, he has loved learning about all sorts of animals. He spends a great deal of his time watching animal-related documentaries.

“His interest in animals exposed him to their habitats and the importance of their ecosystems in enabling these wild animals to thrive and not go extinct.

“At a very young age, he already had the courage to preach to the masses about nature and animals, ” she said.

Lee has inspired his grandmother to pick up the hobby as well, thanks to the time she has spent helping her grandson with his projects while nagging him to clean his workspace.

“Plants are special as they have the ability to grow and flourish. It’s so exciting to be able to capture this ability in a jar or terrarium and watch it happen.

“You put this plant into a terrarium and it basically flourishes with minimal intervention, ” said Lee.

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