Shoebox Diorama Ideas for the Rainforest

Updated November 21, 2016

Dioramas often make up an essential part of elementary and middle-school learning. Not only do these projects stimulate children's creativity, but they also help cement facts in the brain, enabling students to recall information more easily. The rainforest works well as a diorama project because it's so dense. Since there's a lot going on in these tropical jungles, children can pick one aspect to explore in their work.

Forest Trees

Since the rainforest is so densely forested, the plant life consists of several layers. The topmost layer features the tips of the highest trees, called the overstory. The next layer is the canopy, followed by the understory. The final layer consists of shrubs and ground plants. Students can depict this by setting a shoebox on one of its long sides. Slit the top two corners and fold the top side up. Create three heights of trees and a few shrubs from twigs and fake leaves. Glue the tallest trees in the back and litter them with tiny plastic birds. Glue in medium trees next, followed by the shortest trees. Place the shrubs among the tree trunks. Decorate the forest floor with colourful tissue paper bits for flowers and a handful of twigs for tree litter.

Create a River

The rainforest has many venues you can depict in your diorama. If you don't want to show just the forest, try a large, wide, blue river. Create a few fake trees from green monofilament and twigs, setting the monofilament with hairspray. Paint the back of your shoebox blue and glue the trees in there. Leave plenty of space in front of the trees. Paint this area dark blue or blue brown. Use lighter colours or translucent glass paint to create currents in the water. Place plastic alligators and fish in the water. For the Amazon River, paint a few plastic dolphins pink and set them in there as well.

Jungle Natives

When researching your rainforest, pay particular attention to the natives. Note what they look like, how they get food and what their homes are made of. Stand a shoebox on one of its long sides, and paint a jungle on the inside bottom and sides. Paint the inside bottom of the box brown and dot it with tiny fake shrubs. Create native home structures with toothpicks, fabric and leaves. Paint plastic human figures to match the skin tone and markings of the natives in your area. Finish the diorama by placing a few animals in the corner. Perhaps a predator watches the tribal people or they keep domestic goats in pens.

One Plant

Rainforests often contain hundreds of tiny ecosystems in which only the smallest creatures live. Bromeliads make up one of these ecosystems because their broad leaves form bowls in which water collects. Bromeliads like pineapples often contain tadpoles, frogs or even fish. Paint the inside of your shoebox green. Construct a bromeliad plant with large pieces of green cardstock. Mix clear gel wax with blue colouring to create water, and fill the centre of your bromeliad with the mix. Quickly slip plastic frogs, tadpoles, small fish and insects into the wax. If some of the wax dribbles onto the floor of the diorama, don't worry. It will look like water dripping between the leaves.

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