How to Make a Biome Diorama: Tips for Creating a Great Science Project

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What Is It?

A diorama is a three-dimensional model that can be built on a flat surface or inside an enclosed area such as a box. This type of model can be full sized or built to scale as desired by the builder. An example of large dioramas can be seen in natural history museums throughout the country.

A biome is defined as a major habitat category with similar climatic conditions and specific communities of plants and animals. There are many biomes found around the world. Each one has distinctive plants and animals that are adapted to that specific environment. Students will need to study the biome they want to build to fully understand what elements should be included in their display.

Choosing a Biome

The materials required to make a scale model of a biome will be different according to the environment chosen. For example, a tundra biome may have snow and ice as part of the finished model. A biome of a deciduous forest will have broadleaf foliage. Deserts may have sand and rainforests will have a wide variety of vegetation. Choose a biome that is interesting and study the climate, where that specific biome is found globally and any special adaptations of the animals or plants in that biome. Determine what the ground looks like, how tall vegetation grows, how much water is available and any geographic characteristics such as mountains. Here are some examples of different biomes you may want to explore further. There are many more not included on this list:

  • Freshwater
  • Marine
  • Desert
  • Forest
  • Grassland
  • Rainforest
  • Tundra

Designing the Diorama

Once the biome has been chosen determine what items to include in the scale model. Wild animals from a variety of environments are available as plastic toys and the use of these animals will determine the scale of the finished model. A tundra biome may include a polar bear while a rainforest may have parrots and a leopard. When using plastic animals verify they are in scale to each other. The fox should not be larger than the bear.

Draw a diagram of the finished diorama on a piece of paper that is the same size as the finished product. Include where items such as plants, rocks, animals or water will be placed. Determine what will need to be made, what can be painted directly onto the base and what can be purchased already made. Choose the materials to use and prepare the workspace.

Building the Model

  • Begin from the bottom or surface and work up when building the model. If the diorama will be made inside of a box, work from the back toward the front and the bottom toward the top.

  • Paint the background before adding other details. Lay the box so the ‘back’ is flat before painting and leave it in this position until the paint dries to avoid runs in the paint.

  • To create sand or dirt floors paint a thin layer of glue on the area, spread the sand or dirt and allow the glue to dry. Tip the base and gently tap to remove the extra sand or dirt.

  • Items that may be painted include water features, grass, sky or plants. Allow all paint to dry before continuing.

  • Once the paint and glue are dry, place the other elements in the diorama as planned.

  • Make rocky or uneven terrain by crushing a sheet of newspaper in your hands. Shape and cut the crushed paper to the desired shape and size then paint it with a thick layer of white glue. Sprinkle dirt and sand over the glue and allow it to dry. Place the finished terrain as desired in the model.

  • When using clay to represent items press the bottom of the clay onto a flat surface before gluing in place. This will provide a more stable display.

  • View the model from several angles and adjust items as needed for the best view. Once the locations of items have been finalized glue each item down firmly. Begin at the back of the diorama and move forward. Allow the glue to dry overnight.

  • Review the final model to ensure all required details are included. Create a legend to describe what items were included and why.

  • Verify your name is written on the finished model before handing it in.