Learning the topography of our world is best done with hands-on projects such as dioramas that feature mountains and valleys with deep canyons in between. Parents partner with kids for these projects because they are fun to make, if a little messy. Plan a weekend from start to finish.
Things You'll Need
Cutting board, 2 feet by 3 feet
2-liter soda bottles
Disposable foam paintbrushes
Acrylic spray finish
Determine the size of your diorama. If it will be larger than a 2-foot by 3-foot cutting board, build a platform that can be used to transport the finished project. Most dioramas fit on a regular cutting board. Cover the board with construction paper.
Use a 2-liter soda bottle to form the top of the highest mountain peak. Smaller peaks are formed over bottles that have been cut down. Drape chicken wire over the bottle and hand sculpt the sides with grooves and dents to simulate valleys and canyons. Smaller rock formations are made by stuffing small plastic bags full of crumpled newspaper and taping them to give them shape.
Prepare a papier mâché solution from approximately 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of white glue and 2 cups of water. The mixture should be like pancake batter. Rip newspaper into 3-inch wide strips and coat them with the papier mâché glue. Cover the mountain structure and the smaller rocks with two or three layers of papier mâché . Use your hands to mold them into shape as you apply the newspaper strips. Dry over night.
Add more layers to the mountains as desired. Cover the rocks with paper towels soaked in papier mâché glue to give them a rougher texture. Dry for several hours.
Paint with dark brown tempera over the rocks and mountains. When they are dry, use a sponge to apply lighter brown over all except the deep canyons. Finish with green sponging for the effect of grass. You may dab white paint on the highest peaks to simulate snow.
When the tempera paint is completely dry, move the project outside and cover the diorama with a low gloss acrylic spray finish.
You can embellish your diorama with bits of natural materials, such as a carpet of crushed leaves glued to the base of the mountain and even bits of green painted cotton balls for low shrubbery. Make a steam by gluing sand between the hills and valleys and spraying the sand blue.