[Athena] [Curriculum] [Earth Resources]

Wetlands Diorama Activity


Students create a three dimensional diorama model of a wetlands to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of wetlands.

Students show the components of specific wetlands system and the relationship of these components to each other.


This is a concluding activity designed to follow previous wetland activities and preferably a wetland field trip.


Paper and pencil and the following materials for the three types of models:
Diorama Example #1 Diorama Example #2Diorama Example #3
Flat Surface ModelShoe Box ModelTri-foldModel
tray or boardshoe boxlarge piece of construction paper
natural materials natural materialsnatural materials
e.g. grass/dirt/rockse.g. grass/dirt/rockse.g. grass/dirt/rocks
glue glueglue/stapler/scissors
paper macheconstruction paperconstruction paper
craft suppliescraft suppliescraft supplies
models of animalsmodels of animalsmodels of animals


  1. Students choose one of the four wetland areas to recreate in a three dimensional model form.
  2. On a piece of paper students write down everything they know about the type of wetland they choose. They should include all animals, plants, land forms and environmental features. Older student can include how these components are related to each other.
  3. Using one of the three type of diorama models, see illustrations below, students recreate the wetland in a model form.

    Teacher Note: Teachers should share with the students an example of the model the students will be using. Verbal and written directions are greatly enhanced when an example model is available for students to analyze. Students create higher quality work when they have observed the set criteria. This is required for very young students.

  4. Older students make notes or a short essay/paragraph to explain the relationship of their wetland components to each other. Younger students verbally explain how these components are related. Teachers can present younger students with leading questions (e.g. "What does your frog eat?"... "Do you have any insects in your diorama? Can you point them out to us?").
  5. Students place their wetland models on their desks and take a tour of the room. Often called a silent or walking museum.

Types of Diorama Models

Example #1 - The Flat Surface Model

The Flat Surface Model is build on a cookie tray, cake pan, or other shallow tray. The land forms are build using dirt, clay or paper mache and are then painted. The contents may include anything from mirrors for water, cellophane, toy animals, dirt, rocks, twigs, etc.

Example #2 - The Shoe box Model

The Shoe Box Model is created by taking the lid off of a shoe box, placing the box on its side and the lid under the box. If the lid is turned upside-down, it can hold part of the diorama. The objects and features in the lid and box maybe assorted items, similar to the Flat Surface Model, or only construction paper, or a combination of either of these.

Example #3 - The Tri-fold Model

To make a Tri-fold Model (looks like the corner of a room), take a rectangular piece of paper/construction paper. Hold the paper horizontally and fold in half (hamburger fold). Keep it folded and fold again, while holding the paper horizontally (hamburger fold again). Open the paper all the way. Turn the paper horizontally. In the center of the paper, rip or cut on the fold half way down (to the center of the paper). Fold the paper to overlap the two squares adjacent to the cut; staple these together.

The surface you just created (folding one square over the other) is the base. This can be colored with crayons or pens before stapling or students can glue construction paper onto it.

Extension Idea: Students create an edible diorama made completely of food. After they have shared their diorama, they can eat it. (Examples for diorama food uses are; fudge for soil, gummy candy fishes and worms, broccoli for trees, coconut shavings dyed in green food coloring for grass, candy rock jellybeans, etc.)

Written by: The Wetland Team collaborating with Hugh Anderson

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Last Modified 29 December, 1997