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Delightful Dinosaur Diorama: A Great School Project

written by: Dawn Marcotte • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 2/7/2013

One of the most popular types of science projects is a diorama--especially of ancient reptiles and prehistoric birds! These hints will help students organize and create a diorama they will be proud to show.

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    A Long Time Ago...

    Building a dinosaur diorama will require knowledge of the environment that existed when these animals roamed the earth. Designing and building a diorama helps students expand their understanding of the geographic and environmental aspects while giving them some creative license to explore.

    Three-dimensional models can be small enough to fit in a shoebox or larger as determined by the creator. Students will need to choose a scale, select materials, and plan the construction to create an accurate representation of their chosen dinosaurs. Follow these steps to help students create a project they will be proud to display.

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    Scale is the the size of the model in comparison to real life. Each student should decide how large he or she want the diorama to be and choose the dinosaur size that is appropriate. Plastic toy dinosaurs are readily available at any toy store in a variety of sizes.

    Don’t mix models from different sources as the scale may be wrong and the Tyrannosaurus Rex may be smaller than the Diplodocus.

    Determine what dinosaurs will be included in the display and if there will be any flying dinosaurs. All aspects of the diorama should be made to the same scale whenever possible. Many students try to fit to much into a small space. Include fewer dinosaurs for a shoebox or choose a larger surface.

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    After choosing the dinosaurs that will be included the student should decide what else would be part of the landscape. A marsh environment may require reeds or other plants while a more arid landscape may have rocks and sand. Make a list of the items to be included before choosing building materials.

    An example would be a diorama that includes a Triceratops and Hadrosaurid may have water plants, a pond, dirt, bushes, trees and a fallen log. Once the items to be included have been chosen draw a rough draft diagram of where these items will be placed in the diorama.

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    Dioramas can be inside a box for easy transport or on a flat surface such as a sheet of plywood cut to size. A shoebox is also useful if any of the dinosaurs will be flying as a box on its side provides a roof to hang items.

    Choose materials that will be easy to work with, but durable. Dirt and sand can be used as part of the ground while paint can be used to represent grass and water. Using the plastic plants commonly found in aquariums students can create forests and marshes. An uneven terrain can be made with crumpled paper.

    Paint thick glue on the paper after it has been crumpled and spread sand over the glue to add texture. Additional plants can be purchased where model railroad supplies are available. Be creative and use items from around the yard whenever possible. Sticks, rocks, sand, and dirt can all be found in a yard or park.

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    Construct the diorama from the ground up or if the diorama is going to be inside a box from the back forward. Paint the ground a neutral color first, then add a second layer of green for grassy areas or blue for water.

    Spread glue and add a layer of dirt or sand in areas that will not have grass. Carefully place the other elements of the diorama, but do not glue in place until all aspects have been placed.

    Check the location of the items from several points of view and make changes as necessary, then glue in place. Add details to dinosaurs or the landscape with paint after everything has been glued. Allow the glue to dry overnight before moving the diorama.

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    Have Fun!

    A detailed diorama on dinosaurs for a school project will take some time to plan and build. Use creativity when choosing materials and make changes as needed. Focus on creating the best project you can while following any requirements given.