How to Make a Diorama Out of a Shoe Box for a Penguin Habitat

Mold penguins out of clay for your diorama.
••• Hemera Technologies/ Images

Children can create beautiful and informative dioramas out of shoe boxes for a penguin habitat project with items that are readily available in most households.

Teachers often assign dioramas, which are three-dimensional representations of a habitat or a particular scene frozen in time, as a way for children to demonstrate what they have learned about a particular subject matter. A diorama made from a shoe box of a penguin habitat is perfect for fulfilling an assignment about Antarctica and the flightless birds.

Penguin Habitat Information

All penguins are found in the southern hemisphere. However, this doesn't mean that they all live in snowy and frozen conditions. While many do live in the cold habitats of Antarctica, there are warm weather penguins that live in tropical places like the Galapagos penguin that finds its home in the Galapagos Islands.

Have students pick a particular penguin species before they start on their penguin diorama. Help them research details on the habitat of the penguin they choose as this will change look of the diorama and the materials needed.

For example, the Emperor penguin on the barren ice of the Antarctic where temperatures can drop to negative 76 degrees Fahrenheit. This would require white paint, fake snow, ice, clay representing the Arctic waters, etc.

The African penguin, on the other hand, live off the coast of Southwestern Africa. This coastal area is rocky, contains sandy beaches, choppy waters, nests made of their excrement and bright hot sun. These two penguins would need drastically different dioramas to accurately represent their habitat.

    Decide on a breed of penguins. Different types of penguins will have different habitats.

    For instance, the tiny fairy penguins in Australia live in burrows in sand dunes while Emperor penguins live on the ice in Antarctica.

    Sketch out a basic idea for your penguin habitat on a piece of paper. Because penguins live on land but can spend up to 75 percent of their time in the ocean, your diorama should ideally include representations of both.

    Paint the inside and outside of your box. The outside can be any color you prefer. For the inside, use one shade of blue for the sky and another for the ocean.

    If you prefer, you can cover the box in construction paper instead of painting it. You can also use blue construction paper inside the box to represent the ocean or the sky instead of painting it.

    Mold a number of penguins out of clay or children's modeling dough. If your diorama includes other animals or fish, mold them as well. Let all your clay critters sit for awhile, until they dry and harden.

    Cut a piece of white polystyrene foam that will take up about half of your box's floor to represent the land or ice mass portion of your diorama.

    If the polystyrene is to represent a sandy surface, paint it brown. If it is to represent ice, leave it white.

    Glue pieces of leftover polystyrene foam or packing peanuts onto your diorama's landforms to give them more dimension.

    Create a sense of water. For a simple diorama, you can leave the floor and sides of the box that represent the ocean painted blue or covered in construction paper.

    For a more elaborate look, crinkle up some blue plastic wrap and glue it to the bottom of your shoe box.

    Glue your clay penguins into the positions you sketched out on your paper. Have some penguins in the water and others on the land or ice. Glue on any other critters you have created, as well.

    Put your name on the back of the diorama.

    Things You'll Need

    • Shoe box
    • Glue
    • Construction paper
    • Paint
    • Clay
    • White polystyrene foam
    • Packing peanuts
    • Plastic wrap (blue)

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