How to Make a Coral Reef Biome in a Shoebox

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Things You'll Need

  • Empty shoebox

  • Blue tempera or acrylic paint

  • Paintbrush

  • Glue stick

  • Clear cellophane wrap (optional)

  • Sand

  • Colored construction paper

  • Scissors

  • Shells or bits of coral (optional)

Display the beauty of a coral reef with a shoebox diorama.

For your next "show and tell" assignment, bring an exotic coral reef to wow your classmates. Okay, maybe you can't exactly haul an actual reef to school, but you can make an impressive compact replica of the real thing. All you need to get started on the project is an empty shoebox. If you don't have one of these lying around the house, ask a local shoe store if they have any extra boxes they could donate to your cause. After some creative decorating, you'll have a snazzy shoebox diorama to bring the essence of the reef to class.


Step 1

Remove the lid from your shoebox and lay it horizontally on a flat work space so the opening is facing up. Cut away the long side facing you and discard the excess cardboard.

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Step 2

Paint the remaining three sides on the inside of the shoebox with a paintbrush and blue tempera or acrylic paint. Allow two to four hours for the paint to dry completely. Glue sheets of clear cellophane wrap to the blue sides of the shoebox, if desired, to give the illusion of shiny, wet water.


Step 3

Apply a layer of glue to the bottom of the box with a glue stick. Sprinkle sand over the glue for the ocean floor of your coral reef. Overturn the shoebox above a trash can and tap the sides to get rid of any excess sand, or shake it over a storage container to save the sand for a future craft project.


Step 4

Cut out coral and fish shapes from a variety of different colors of construction paper. Glue the pieces of paper to the sides of the shoebox.

Step 5

Glue small seashells or bits of coral to the bottom of the shoebox, if desired.


Instead of cutting out your own original images of coral and fish, print images from the computer or cut them out of magazines.


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