How to make a rain forest in a shoe box

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The rainforest has four distinct layers, each with its own plants, animals and ecosystem. With a shoebox recreation of the rainforest, you can give viewers a 3D glimpse of this complex place in miniature. While pictures and articles provide plenty of information, peering into your shoebox forest can provide an imaginative look at what being in the rainforest might really be like. Household items and simple craft supplies will serve as vegetation, and small toys or pictures can stand in for the birds, bugs and animals that call the rainforest home.

Paint a rainforest scene on the bottom of the shoebox. This will serve as the back of the rainforest presentation when it's finished. The rainforest is filled with dense trees and plant life, so the majority of the picture should be different shades of green with a little bit of blue peeking through near the top.

Extend the rainforest scene to the two sides of the box to the left and right of the scene you created in step 1. Since these sides will be harder to decorate, you can just paint them solid green with a little blue at the top if you prefer.

Paint the side of the shoebox that will be the top of the scene blue to represent the sky. Paint the bottom of the box a dark green for the forest floor. Stand the box up so the bottom forms the back of the rainforest display.

Fold a dark green scrubby sponge in half and make four small cuts in it with scissors. When you unfold the sponge, the cuts will become holes in the centre of the sponge. These holes should be just big enough for craft sticks to fit through.

Stick a Popsicle stick through each hole in the sponge so the sponge is about 5 cm (2 inches) from the bottom of the stick. Glue the sponge and sticks together with hot glue to keep them in place. The sponge will form the canopy of the rainforest.

Wrap green pipe cleaners around the upper half of some of the Popsicle sticks to represent vines.

Draw the shape of a tree's top onto a sheet of green construction paper. The shape doesn't have to be exact. A rough oval with uneven edges will give the proper appearance. Cut out the shape and tape it to the Popsicle stick so it reaches from the point where the stick touches the sponge up past the top of the stick. Repeat with the other sticks, but make two of the trees shorter and two of the trees tall enough to just touch the top of the shoebox.

Affix the bottom of the Popsicle sticks to the rainforest floor with masking tape. Your rainforest now has several layers. The rainforest floor is on the bottom of the box. The understory is just beneath the sponge, the canopy is on top of the sponge and the emergent layer is up among the two taller trees.

Place animals in your rainforest scene. Use small toys or pictures cut out of sturdy card stock or construction paper. Anteaters and okapi live on the rainforest floor. Wildcats like Bengal tigers, jaguars and leopards can climb and live in both of the bottom two layers. Sloths, lemurs, parrots and orang-utans live in the canopy. Eagles and bats live at the very top in the emergent layer.

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