Saturday, December 1, 2007

the genesis of a rainforest diorama

What do you get when you cross 1 child's enthusiasm for their first school project with 1 mother's pedantic perfectionism? A rainforest diorama in a box.

Take some aluminium foil and shape it into a tree:

make some more trees and put them in a box:

mould a forest floor to fit the box, attach the trees, and cover the foil with paper mache:

paint the paper mache:

drape the trees with vines, and add a monkey:

paint a background inside the box:

mould a frog out of coloured paperclay or plasticine:

add a cardboard tree fern, a corpse flower, and a crocodile:

hang a butterfly and an eagle:

add a tree snake, orchids, pitcher plants, a parrot, and a jaguar:

add tissue paper leaves, cellophane water, a flying parrot, and a river dolphin:

and label everything.

One rainforest project complete!

Lots of fun and a lot of hard work! In case you're wondering, yes, I did help Lizzy with the fiddly bits - foil moulding, paper macheing, painting trees - but she painted the box, made the animals and flowers (with a bit of guidance), cut out the fern leaves, and stuck on the labels by herself.

And if you're feeling at all inadequate, my fellow mothers, about all the rainforest dioramas in a box which you have never made with your children (yes, I know how you think) keep in mind that we have never made one before either (I've never even done paper mache with my kids before, I admit it) and will probably never make one again. I'm hoping Ben will choose a rock pool habitat for his 3D project when he's in grade 3. Cardboard starfish in a that sounds easy.


Anonymous said...

hi my name is lauren and i was just checking out images of raninfoersts since i am making a 3d rainfoerst and i was just gettingsome ideas and i really love your rainforest can youhelp me with the equipment once you have read this comment please email me on

Jean said...

Hi Lauren!

Blad you liked the rainforest.

Here's how we made it:

- cardboard box
- paints (painted sky, background trees)

forest floor and trees:
- foil (scrunched into shape of forest floor - to fit the box - and trees, then we placed the trees into the forest floor)
- paper mache (strips of newspaper soaked in wallpaper paste laid over the trees and forest floor, left to dry)
- paint (trunks brown and forest floor brown with green splodges)

- green tissue paper scrunched up

- we used coloured paper clay which we found cheaply (it's very light and dries fast); you could use modelling clay of some kind
- we suspended the birds from the inside top of the box on fishing line attached with blobs of paper clay and craft glue

understory, plants:
- tree ferns (rolled brown cardboard with green cardboard leaves inserted in top)
- ferns (green cardboard leaves inserted into a blob of green paper clay and attached to forest floor)
- vines (we used brown or green twisted paper, the kind they sell to wrap parcels, you could use lots of things)
- orchids, fly catchers (paper clay flowers on stems cut from cardboard, stuck to tree branches with blobs of paper clay)
- corpse flower (moulded from paper clay and attached to forest floor)

a piece of blue cellophane cut to shape and stuck with sticky tape to the forest floor and side of the box

sticky labels:
(to label animals and plants)

There you go!

MariposaMama said...

Thank you SO MUCH for putting this rainforest project online for me to find! Even though we live in California and you're in Australia, thousands of miles away, YOU HELPED ME SO MUCH! Thanks!

Your blog completely inspired my kids and me, and based on your instructions, we made a SUPER rainforest diorama of our own. In order to leave a comment for you, I had to sign up for and create my own blog! (We have documented OUR project at romans12-2mama.blogspot, check it out). THANKS SO MUCH for taking the time to share your great ideas, helpful photos and instructions. God bless you! :)
Mariposa Mama

Anonymous said...

this is awesome.great ideas

Anonymous said...

hi i am ashleigh and i love the rain forest but i don't know how you made the animals so please tell me and also can i do a project like that? email me at

Aimee Ruediger said...

THANK YOU over and over!!!!! My daughter had to write a page on an animal in the rainforest and then make something to go along with it. When I saw your pictures and instructions, I knew we could do it. There were some changes I made since this was a first grade project and I didn't want to completely take over. It came out great and for this craft challenged mom, I REALLY appreciated the step by step pictures plus the instructions!!! Thank you again, she and I had fun doing it and aside from some help here and there, my daughter did this herself!!

Jean said...

So glad it was helpful! :)

Niki Daniels said...

A panicked search for "Rainforest Diorama" brought me here.

My 4th grader came home with an assignment to create a diorama of the rainforest, to be worked on exclusively at home, including a small report, due in just a few days, during the busiest portion of our holiday season - and I was one lost, frazzled mom.

This post is/was enormously helpful!!! Thank you so very much!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting!!! You're an awesome, energetic, giving Mom!!! God bless~! Thank you for your sharing heart to share with all. It cracks me up how such project is given to basically all 3rd grader on this planet!! :) Here too, we are looking to do one.. for a 3rd grader. (note.. it's "we" project! :) wasnt such when we mommies were in school! ) ENJOY!!

Anonymous said...

Hiya Jean, I am in Year 6 and I live in the UK. Way way way away from you in Australia but we have this homework pack in school and we have to complete one thing off it and I chose a rainforest scene. I was searching and searching for a suitable website and I was going to choose a different one until I found this. I have not yet completed the task but I'm onto the part where I paint the paper mache but I wud just like to say THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I am stuck on one part though which is the leaves for the tree or the canopy, I don't know how to do it so as soon as you read this comment reply back, THANKS!!

Jean said...

I think we just scrunched up green crepe paper (or some other kind of paper - can't remember now!) for the leaves and stuck it on top of the branches. Don't even know if we stuck it or just rested it on there, to be honest! Whatever works.

Jean said...

I hope that helps and your project goes well!

Andrew said...

Wow. that is one of the best things I have seen in a while. My science projects were never as complicated or nearly as good.

Anonymous said...

This is such an amazing idea. I love your creativity. Thank you ,
Veena khurana

oobe said...

Hi I’m an internet Troll I look around on the web all day to find places to make sardonic or inappropriate comments but this is the one time I am being sincere nice tree in a box it made me smile I see you love your kid and she seems happy your a good mum.

oobe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy said...

Just a guess, but this looks like the biome project from the BJU Press science book. Am I close? My son has to make a rain forest diorama very close to what y'all made. I totally understand the enthusiasm/perfectionism factor. This will help!

Jean said...

Nope, never saw that book. Maybe they pinched the idea from me! ;D