School projects and making a mini-habitat

Habitats are the world around us. From the penguins of the polar regions to the evergreens of coniferous forests, the Earth's various habitats include a wide array of plant and animal species. Students can create scientific projects making mini-habitats from basic household and craft materials. These pint-sized pictorials of the world's regions can help kids learn about the environment, planetary sciences, ecology and biology.

Choosing a Habitat

The first step to making a mini-habitat school project is to choose an appropriate setting. Different habitats to select from include the tundra, grasslands, barren desert regions, lush tropical forests, oceans and freshwater wetlands. Encourage students to choose a habitat that connects to their specific interest. For example, if a student enjoys a science lesson on fish and other sea creatures, try an ocean project. Don't just stick to scientific connections. History, social studies and even art topics may lend themselves to a habitat designation. Tie the history of the American west to desert or grassland habitats or the art of the Inuits to polar regions.

Mini-Habitat Materials

Teachers can select from a variety of arts and crafts materials to create a mini-habitat project. Pick and choose appropriate items based on the ages of the children in the class, specific project requirements, display and storage needs and the habitats themselves. Some materials that may be useful for many different types of habitat constructions include cardboard, construction paper, tempera or acrylic paint, thick and thin bristled paint brushes, clear drying school glue, crayons, markers and modelling clay. Teachers may also want to give the students the option to choose from a selection of natural materials, such as grass, leaves, sand, twigs and sticks, flowers or rocks/pebbles. Additionally, fancy or metallic papers, cotton balls/batting, foil, cellophane, yarn, ribbon or tissue paper can help kids to create details such as a faux stream, soft snow or a shining ocean.

Types of Projects

There are many different ways to design a mini-habitat, ranging from shoebox dioramas to topographical models and more. To make the traditional shoebox diorama, ask students to bring in or collect old boxes to reuse. Turn the shoebox on its long side and use a pencil to sketch a scenic landscape background on the back and sides. Add ground-level features to the bottom of the box. Supply the students with a variety of earth-type colours, such as brown, green, blue and white to paint the landscape. Complete the project by gluing on natural materials and/or animal and plant life paper popups. Another mini-habitat project option is to create a topographical habitat. Start with a flat piece of cardboard and build up the land forms with modelling clay, construction paper and tissue paper. For a special effect or added durability, use newspaper covered in paper mache or plaster strips for mountainous or hilly habitats.

Items to Include

There are several important components to any habitat. These primarily include animals and plant life. Students can sculpt animals from modelling clay or compound or make paper popup creatures that can be glued to the bottom of the habitat. Fashion plants in the same manner or use natural materials held together with clear drying glue. Other items to consider for the habitat may include rocks or pebble boulders, faux waterways made from paper or blue cellophane, sand or soil/dirt.

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About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.