How to Make a Prairie Diorama

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A diorama is a three-dimensional representation of a scene that can range from miniature doll house versions to life-sized wildlife dioramas. Dioramas of an outdoor environment complete with animals, plants and vivid landscape imagery are commonly found in natural history centers and museums. Kids can use simple art materials to create a prairie diorama that represents the beauty of this North American ecosystem.

Things You'll Need

  • Shoe box
  • Construction paper
  • Modeling clay
  • Clear drying, non-toxic glue
  • Colored raffia
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Tempera paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Craft stick

Craft a Prairie Diorama

  • Separate the shoe box from the lid. Turn the shoe box on its side so that it is horizontal with the opening facing you.

  • Draw background landscape scenery on the back, sides and bottom of the shoe box's interior. Start with a horizon line, the horizontal line that divides the ground and the sky. Prairies are flat or slightly hilly regions that have an abundance of grasses and wildflowers. Make lines to indicate where the grass and flower areas will be.

  • Paint the background landscape with the tempera paint. Mix and blend the colors to create unique shades and hues for grass and sky areas. Combine blue and white for a light summer sky, and green and brown for different types of grass. Layer vertical lines made by thin brush strokes in varying shades of green, yellow, tan and brown to represent different types of prairie grasses. Set aside to dry.

  • Cut pieces of colored raffia into segments no longer than 3 inches each to make faux grass. Group the raffia together in small clumps and glue to the interior of the shoe box. Spread the clumps of raffia into different areas such as the front of the box, the middle or even directly onto the back landscape painting.

  • Sculpture prairie animals using the modeling clay. Wildlife commonly found in the prairie environment includes prairie dogs, badgers, ground squirrels, bison, red foxes and coyotes. To create one of the smaller mammals (such as a prairie dog or fox), tear off a piece of clay no longer than 2 inches. Roll the clay into an oval shape using the palms of your hands to create the animal's body. Repeat with smaller clay sections for the head, arms and legs. Use your fingers to mold the head into a spherical shape and the arms and legs into cylinders. Press the clay sections together firmly to form the animal. Add very small pieces in other colors for facial features, ears or a tail. Take the same steps (using larger pieces of clay) for a bigger animal such as a bison. For added texture, use your fingernail or a craft stick to create lines and patterns in the clay that look like fur.

  • Glue the clay animals onto the interior bottom of the shoe box. Position each in a natural way. For example, the bison should be on all four legs and not sitting back. Add extra raffia with glue to make it appear the animals are eating or resting in the grass.

Tips & Warnings

  • To save money on art supplies, you can buy fewer paint colors. Choose the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and white. Mix these to create a rainbow of paints to use.
  • Prairies contain many types of grasses that range from short to tall. Some prairie areas contain mixed grasses. Cut the raffia in different sizes to show a mixed grass region.
  • For a special effect, you can add in small cut and crumpled pieces of colorful tissue paper as flowers. Glue these near the raffia or onto the background box landscape.
  • A responsible adult should always closely supervise a child when creating this (or any other) craft project.
  • Only use arts and crafts materials that are clearly labeled non-toxic and child-safe.
  • Only use materials that are appropriate and labeled for the child's age.

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References

  • Photo Credit prairie image by laurent gehant from Fotolia.com
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