My oldest daughter used Exploring Countries & Cultures from My Father’s World for her 3rd grade curriculum last year. The science portion was learning all about different ecosystems and biomes of the various countries she studied.
There were a few hands on activities included in the curriculum. But it was mostly reading books and writing facts. My daughter is not a huge fan of writing at this point. So I thought of a fun hands on project she could do while learning all about the biomes of the world. Looking ahead at the lesson plan for the year I noticed there was a diorama project for the rainforest. I thought it would be so fun to create dioramas for all the biomes she would study.
I know what you might be thinking. What am I going to do with all those boxes of dioramas? I’m not one to save all the things. I throw away A LOT of things throughout the year. So I decided to make it easy and just reuse the same box for each biome. I had this large kraft box from Hobby Lobby that I’ve saved for a few years now and use for presents at Christmas. We made sure to only use tape so it would be easy to switch out the papers.
She started with the desert biome. Before creating the diorama, she read books about the desert biome. After learning the basics about it I had her choose a few animals, cacti, and landforms to include in the diorama. Then she would research each one and write a fact about them on index cards. She would read books and watch nature documentaries. We decided it would be fun for her to do a little presentation at the end of her study where she would talk about every aspect of the biome. So the index cards would be easy for her to use when presenting.
This was such a fun diorama! She made a lot of hands on creations with this one. Clay landforms, needle felted cacti, and a beautiful desert sky using soft pastels. For the animals in each biome she used these Safari Toob animals. They’re a perfect size for dioramas and you can get a variety of different sets.
Once everything was created she assembled the diorama. We taped the background sky to the back and added kinetic sand for the base. Then she placed the landforms, cacti, and animals throughout the base.
For the presentation we thought it would be fun to invite some family over to help celebrate finishing our first country. She loved explaining the biome to everyone. It was such a fun experience!
For the boreal forest she made a paper mache mountain and glued some pine needle to the base to represent pine trees. She loved making the northern lights background using acrylic paint and canvas paper. For the floor she used some green felt for the grass and blue cardstock for the river. She added some kinetic rocks around the base of the mountain and along the river bank. She added some trees and animals from Safari Ltd.
The rainforest biome was part of the scheduled projects for ECC. The idea was to make a diorama showcasing the different layers of the rainforest.
My daughter got the idea of using more than one box stacked on top of each other. I had received a package in the mail and the box had palm leaves all over it. She said it would be the perfect box to use. Then we used my Cricut to cut out a lot more leaves and vines in various shapes, sizes, and shades of green. She chose a blue background for the other boxes and glued all the leaves and vines on. We added a large stick to go through all the layers and come out at the top. She also made some flowers and vines using tissue paper.
We made labels for each layer and glued them on to the boxes. Then she placed all of the various animals in the layer they are mostly likely found.
You can see the box that inspired it all used for the emergent layer. She placed a few birds on branches here.
I loved how she placed the monkey and frogs on the vines and branches of the canopy layer.
For the understory layer she added a boa constrictor she made out of clay and placed it on a branch. As well as a jaguar.
For the floor layer she made a blue River out of polymer clay. As well as an anaconda. She also added a crocodile and iguana.
I absolutely loved how she created the beautiful sunset for the Savanna diorama. She used paint sticks from The Pencil Grip. They are tempera paint sticks that dry in 90 seconds. (You can use my code GRACE10 for 10% off!) For the floor she added kinetic sand. She also added a small river this time using a cut up blue plastic bag. She added pine needles for the long grasses. She also made a boabab tree using polymer clay formed around wire. She painted it brown and added some wool roving for the leaves. Then she placed the animals around the diorama.
This was probably one of the easiest to put together. She created a background using paint sticks. For the floor she added this instant snow and some blue construction paper for the ocean. Then just added some animals. Even though this was the most simple diorama, the girls had the most fun playing with it!
I think this one was the most fun to create. She used paint sticks to create the water background and added kinetic sand for the ocean bottom. Her sister enjoyed helping her make all kinds of coral and anemones out of polymer clay. We watched a few episodes of Planet Earth of the Great Barrier Reef and the ocean while they created. I also set out a few books on coral reefs for them to get ideas on what to create. She also attached some animals hanging from the top of the box with fishing line so it looked like they were swimming. I just love all of the beautiful colors in this one.
The book basket list in the back of the teacher’s manual had numerous suggestions for each ecosystem and biome. We checked out many books and quickly found our favorites.
One of our favorite series was Biomes of North America by Rebecca Johnson. The series includes A Walk in the Desert, A Walk in the Boreal Forest, A Walk in the Rainforest, A Walk in the Tundra, A Walk in the Deciduous Forest, as well as A Journey into the Ocean, A Journey into a River, and A Journey into a Lake and more.
We also watched a lot of nature documentaries. My daughter would watch with a notepad and pencil. Anytime she heard an interesting fact she wanted to remember she would pause it and write it down. I think she enjoyed this type of research the most.
My daughter doesn’t really enjoy writing too much, unless it’s something fun. And even though she didn’t fill out worksheets for each biome, she still wrote down all the facts. It just seemed more fun to her to write them on notecards in preparation for a presentation.
This was definitely one of her favorite activities from last year. What I loved most about it was she was learning while having fun. It didn’t feel like work to her. She was just creating with her hands, painting, watching documentaries, and reading books. But I know she learned more doing all of that than she would have just by listening to me read.
My favorite thing about homeschooling is being able to change up the way the curriculum is delivered, or the way it’s “supposed” to be completed. Make the curriculum work for you. Do what works best for your children. Sometimes that might mean making dioramas for every biome studied. But your child will have fun and learn so much.