Habitat Diorama Planning

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SWBAT to build on prior experiences to develop a model of biodiversity in a habitat.

Big Idea

A model can represent plants and animals in a habitat.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

In previous lessons,  the children learned how diverse our planet is by studying 4 different habitats--rain forest, woodlands, ocean and desert.  Then they collected data on charts about the species of plants and animals to use for this activity.

This present activity is one of the culminating lessons in which the children will plan a diorama of the habitat of their choice.  Their habitat plan must have 5 plants and 5 animals, along with showing interdependence.

NGSS/Common Core Connections

In the NGSS the children must compare the diversity of life within different habitats.  They will be developing a plan for creating model. The children will be working in depth on one of the habitats studied.  


Biodiversity Parent Note-- 1 per student; You can always use whatever supplies you have available to you.

habitat diorama supplies photo

My Biodiversity Plan--1 per student


5 minutes

I call the children to the front of the room.  

You have all been biologists and have been collecting all sorts of data.  You have collected data showing what types of species of plants and animals are living in a particular habitat.  I would like you to be able to show what you have learned from this.  

For a moment, let's pretend that you have explored an undiscovered habitat.  Now you want to share what you saw with others.  How do you think a biologist could possibly share this information? Besides photos, how could you show others exactly what each plant and animal species look like?

I am trying to led them to the idea that a biologist might make a model.  Making a model of a habitat will help the children to understand the complexities of using scientific models.

Today you are going to get to make a plan for creating a model of a habitat. Let's begin by reviewing what a model is.  Who remembers what a model is?  Why do scientists use models?

They should come up with the notion that scientists use them so they can show others their work easily or when having the "real" thing is not possible, maybe because of size or location.  I am repeatedly trying to get them to be thinking like scientists.

Explore/Develop a Plan

25 minutes

I have the children return back to their seats for the next part.  I pass out their science notebooks.

The first thing you are going to have to decide is which habitat you would like to make a model of.  To help you with this decision, you may get out your science notebook and review each of the habitats we have studied and choose your favorite one.  You may also get out your data collection sheets.

Making decisions like this is actually a basic form of evaluating what they have learned and making a decision based upon their preferences, which is a good skill to teach.  I give them about 5 minutes to think about which habitat they would like to build.  Most of them already have a favorite, so it doesn't take very long.  See my Learning Choices description of why I let the children make this learning choice.

Now that you have figured out which habitat you would like to make, you need to keep out any artifacts you will need and put the other papers away.  You want an uncluttered workspace. We are going to be using this planning sheet to help us.  

I pull up the My Biodiversity Plan recording sheet on the Smartboard.  This helps the children understand the design process.   Then I them out to the children and tell the them to put their names on it. Here is a short video explanation of the sheet.  

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On this planning sheet you will have to write down 5 plants and 5 animals from the habitat that you would like to make a model of.  You may make your models from any of the materials I have up at the reading table.  In your planning, you will need to consider how you are going to make the animals and plants.  You will want to make things that you know and remember what they look like.

I give them about 5 minutes or so to write down the animals and plants on the space provided on the worksheet.  

Now I would like you to look at the bottom of the sheet.  On the lines provided, I would like you to write down how you could show an animal depending on a plant or a plant depending on an animal.  You could even show a plant and animal depending on each other.  Who remembers what we call that when the depend on each other?  Who has some idea of how we could show dependency between the species?

The children come up with great ideas, such as a bird sitting in a nest in the tree, or an elf owl living in a cactus.

Think about your habitat.  How could you show plant and animal dependency?

One of the main goals of this project is to relate to the larger idea that plants and animals need to depend on each other to survive.  Having the children show dependency within their model helps them also to understand this idea.

Now that you have all of your basic ideas down, now you need to draw up your plan.  Your plan should include all of the ideas that you just wrote down.  Your plans should be like a diagram where you label each animal and plant that you include.  If you need reminders about labeling, look at our diagram anchor chart.  Since time is limited, you should draw a sketch, not a colored picture.

In the science practices, children are expected to develop models that can be in the form of a drawing or sketch, as well as a diorama.  Creating this sketch is the first step in achieving that goal. They also need to develop models to show relationships, such as dependency.  So putting this in as part of their plan helps fulfill that practice.

Photo 1, Photo 2 and Photo 3 show students working on their plans.


5 minutes

To wrap up the lesson, I have the children share their plans.  They need to tell the names of each of the plants and animals that they plan to have in their model habitat.  Since I would like them all to have a chance to share and we need to do it quickly, I have them work with their turn and talk partners.  Turn and talk partners are established partners who sit at the same table or are in the same vicinity.

Now that you have developed your plans, I would like you to share your ideas with your turn and talk partners.  Once you are together, your discussion should focus on the animals and plants that you have chosen.  You also need to talk about how you plan on showing dependency.


After they are finished with their discussions we work on adding this page into their science notebooks. Since I did not want to shrink the planning paper down since they needed plenty of space to work, I have them cut straight up the page between the box and the lines were they put down the names of the plants and animals.  Then I have them glue the box part on the left side of the page and the words on the right side.  

I tell the children that we will be using their plans tomorrow to start building their diorama.They are so excited!  I heard one child say there is no way she is going to miss school tomorrow, no matter what!

To evaluate, I simply make sure that the students have written down 5 animals, 5 plants (If they are doing the ocean they only need to write down one plant since we did not study many).  Plus they also need to show dependency.  If they do not have the required amounts, I pull those students aside and have them add to their plan.

Click here to see some samples. Here are some sample plans.  The first child had all of the required parts listed, but needed to add more to her diagram.  The second student needs to work on diagramming itself and also needs to add more species to the diagram.