How to Make a Shoebox Rainforest Ecosystem

Updated November 21, 2016

Making a shoebox rainforest ecosystem is a creative way to display the rich nature of these diverse lands. Rainforests span only two per cent of the world's surface and yet they are home to more than 2/3 of all species of life. Look through rainforest textbooks to find information and images that will stimulate your imagination as your build. Create a faux ecosystem as a school project or a personal hobby to educate and delight all who view it.

Remove the lid from the shoebox. Set the shoebox up horizontally on one of its long sides. Cut out the top -- the other long side -- of the box to give you better access to the project as you create it.

Paint or draw scenic life on the inside of the box. Draw a mural of trees and shrubs to support the visual image you will create as you continue to build. Paint a water fall in the background to display aquatic life that manifests in the rainforest.

Layer the floor of the shoebox model with patches of green, brown and blue felt as representations of grass, moss, soil and water that permeate the rainforest.

Build faux trees with cardboard, pipe cleaner, markers and paint. Realistically structure the vegetation in the rainforest with four types of plant life: emergents (the tallest trees), canopies (medium-sized trees), under canopy (interconnection of branches and elevated foliage) and the shrub layer (ground level foliage). Use lots of browns and dark and light greens to shade and colour the forest.

Paint small hunks of styrofoam in shades of grey and brown to resemble rocks or fallen trees. Glue them intermittently throughout the model.

Attach small figurines of creatures that inhabit the rainforest -- monkeys, snakes, parrots, frogs and jaguars, for example. Use the various layers of vegetation to include figurines -- glue monkeys on branches and snakes on the ground, for instance -- to boost the three-dimensional appeal of the ecosystem and rainforest life.

Things You'll Need

  • Scissors
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Felt
  • Styrofoam
  • Cardboard
  • Ruler
  • Markers
  • Scenic cement
  • Plastic figurines
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About the Author

Jeffery Keilholtz began writing in 2002. He has worked professionally in the humanities and social sciences and is an expert in dramatic arts and professional politics. Keilholtz is published in publications such as Raw Story and Z-Magazine, and also pens political commentary under a pseudonym, Maryann Mann. He holds a dual Associate of Arts in psychology and sociology from Frederick Community College.