Learn How to Make a Desert Diorama: Tips for Students

Learn How to Make a Desert Diorama: Tips for Students
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The Desert Environment

Before embarking on making your diorma, you may find it helpful to explore the desert environment. Read some books about the

desert environment to learn more about what it looks like, as well as the types of plant and animals that live there.

Book suggestions:

The Desert Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta. Illustrated by Mark Astrella

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush retold by Tomie de Paola

Useful websites:

A Lesson about Deserts


A desert is a land area that is very dry. In order to be defined as a desert, a land has to have extremely little rainfall during the year. Most deserts are very hot, however Anarctica is also a desert because it has very little precipitation.

Make a list of the animals and plants that you would expect to find in the desert that you are going to illustrate in your diorama. These would include cactus, scorpians, snakes and other animals.

Preparations for Making the Diorama

Gather the materials that you will need for the project:

  • shoe box
  • sand or sandpaper
  • small models of animals (can usually be found in packages in Dollar Stores)
  • glue
  • scissors
  • construction paper or thin card
  • crayons or markers

Cover your work surface with newspaper to protect it and to make for an easy clean up. On a sheet of paper make a plan of your diorama. Sketch the location of the animals, the plants (cacti) and people.

Making the Desert Diorama

Place the shoe box on its side. Take the lid and put it inside the “floor” of the box. The lip of the lid will ensure that the sand and features stay inside the scene.

Spread glue over the " lid-floor” and add a layer of sand. If sand is not available you could use a sheet of sandpaper instead.

Add cactus and plants.1) Make them from modelling clay or 2) draw, color and cut out illustrations, bend the bottom of the cut-out to form a base so that they can be glued to the “floor” and stand up.

Add animals. These can be the small plastic figures found in the stores or make them from modelling clay. Snakes can easily be drawn on construction paper and cut out.

Add a few stones or small rocks.

Color the back and side “walls” of the shoe box with blue crayon or marker. Alternatively cut and paste blue paper to cover the inside of the box.

Make a sun from yellow paper or a piece of styrofoam covered in yellow paper and attach to the back “wall” of the box.

To finish the diorama cut pieces of black or brown construction paper to fit the outside portions of the shoe box and glue them on.

Completing the Desert Diorama Project

When you are satisfied with the appearance of the diorama. You may wish to complete the project by recording your findings on a piece of paper and gluing it to the top of the diorama.

  • Name your desert
  • Where is it located?
  • What is its annual rainfall?
  • List the animals found there and tell how they have adapted so that they are able to survive the harsh climate.
  • List the plants and cacti.
  • Take a deep breath. Sit back and admire your Desert Diorama!

Did these tips help you? What did you include in your diorama?