Create a Habitat Diorama

Desert - Mule DeerHabitats are more than just the place an animal lives - they are complex communities of living plants and animals, the rocks and dirt underneath them, the air they breathe, and even the climate and weather of the place they call home.

Recreating a habitat for a museum diorama isn’t easy - it can take scientists and artists hundreds of hours to gather materials, paint, sculpt, taxidermy, and finally assemble each diorama. Not everything in a habitat diorama came from nature - leaves can be made out of wax or paper, trees might be made of plaster, and even entire animals can be made from plastic! Each piece is carefully created to represent nature. They’re works of art as well as science - and you can make your own at home!

Materials Needed

  • A box or container (shoeboxes work well for medium-sized dioramas)
  • Plant/animal figurines
  • Decorations (natural materials and craft supplies)
  • Household craft materials (paint, glue, scissors)

Pick one or two animals for your diorama

Think about these questions: Where does this animal live? What would this animal eat? How does this animal spend its time? What other animals and plants live in this animal’s environment? If you’re able, looking this information up in a book or online is a great way to get ideas!

Collect materials

Once you know what environment your animal lives in, you can gather materials to make that environment. Be creative - just like real diorama designers, you don’t have to make everything out of natural materials. But going into your yard or the woods can be a great place to get ideas! You might want use things like sticks, leaves, bark, acorns, grasses, paper, fabric, or clay.

The background

Most habitat dioramas have a painted background. The background is curved and painted like an optical illusion, to make it seem like the diorama is a window to the outdoors. To make your background, you can paint it, color it with markers, or cut pictures out of magazines or print them out from a website and glue them together. Make sure to think about the size of your animal and how big or small things will look when the animal is placed inside next to them.

The animal within

Time to add your animal! For a permanent diorama you can glue them in place, or use sticky tack for a temporary diorama. Before you place it, try to think about what your animal is doing. Eating? Drinking? Sleeping? Defending its territory?

Assemble the diorama

With your animal in place, you can add all the materials you’ve gathered to recreate their habitat! This is the really fun bit - be as detailed as you can! Create trees, rocks, plants - whatever your animal needs to feel at home!

Look Closer

  • If you used natural materials in your diorama, watch them for a few days. Do they stay the same or start to change?
  • How do you think museums preserve the natural materials in their dioramas?
  • Dioramas show one moment in time. How would your environment change with changing seasons?
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