How to Make a Taiga Diorama

Taiga, or a swampy forest, is a biome that covers much of Canada and Russia. A taiga diorama project provides your students with the opportunity to get hands-on and explore the flora and fauna of these subarctic regions. Whether you're teaching an ecology lesson, are in the midst of a climate unit or are working on a biodiversity theme, creating a three-dimensional habitat propels the concepts off of the printed page.

1 Create Conifers

Gluing random bits of green tissue paper to the bottom of a shoe box won't cut it when it comes to making a taiga diorama. Delve deeper into the vegetation of this biome and help your students to learn about the plant life. Coniferous trees such as the evergreen spruce, fir, pine and deciduous larch dominate the taiga. The trees are dark in color with conical shapes and needle leaves. If you live in an area that has similar needle-leaf trees, clip an end to use as a mini-version inside the diorama. If this isn't an option, trim dark green pipe cleaners into one-inch sections. Insert them into a brown clay tree trunk, folding the edges up in different lengths to make a progressively shorter cone shape. Your students can also paint the trees on to the background. Drag the prongs of a plastic fork through dark green paint, pressing it onto the diorama's background to make a needle-like pattern.

2 Grass-free Ground Cover

Unlike more temperate areas, taigas have little green ground cover. The cold, hard ground doesn't readily support lush plant life. Help your students to understand that this biome's climate doesn't support a rich lining of shrubs, flowers and grassy plants. Have the students re-create frozen ground cover by painting the bottom of the diorama brown or by gluing on a thin layer of real dirt. Even though the taiga isn't rich with plants, lichens and mosses grow on the forest floor. Bring in real moss for the students to explore. Ask them how it differs in appearance and texture from grass or flowering plants. The students can glue pieces of real moss to the diorama floor on top of the dirt.

3 Add Animals

Tie the diorama to an animal biology or biodiversity lesson by making creative creatures to populate the project. Common taiga species include Siberian tiger, the bobcat, the lynx, elk, the porcupine, the gray fox and the snowshoe hare. A discussion of the animals allows your students to connect their appearances to their adaptations to the environment. For example, the snowshoe hare has large paws for hopping on the snow. It also grows white fur in the winter months to blend in with the snowy scenery. Use plastic miniature animals to populate the diorama or have the students model their own out of clay. They can add stripes and spots to clay animals using a find brush and tempera paints or glue on craft fur as a hairy coat.

4 Choose a Season

Summers are short and winters are long in the taiga, but climate change is warming the temperatures of this typically frigid biome. You can go with a straightforward season approach and have the students pick either a greener summer scene or a white winter. Add white paint to the ground and background or glue on cotton fluff to simulate snow. Another option is to make a climate change diorama. Ask the students to feature the weather that results from global warming. This may include a partially frozen winter stream, green trees that have no touches of white on them or eroded, muddy-looking soil. For example, the students can paint a blue stream across the bottom of the diorama. They can then glue on a few dime-sized pieces of metallic silver paper to look like melting ice.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.