How to Make a Leatherback Turtle out of Styrofoam

By Erin Ringwald ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Styrofoam ball 3 in. in diameter
  • Serrated knife
  • Flat Styrofoam sheet, about a quarter-inch thick
  • Flat Styrofoam sheet, about half an inch thick
  • Hot glue gun
  • Pencil
  • Wood glue
  • Water
  • Tissue paper
  • Paint brush
  • Paint
  • Acrylic sealer

The leatherback sea turtle is so named because it has a soft leathery shell. It has a distinctive look because of this leathery appearance and the ridges that run down its back. If you are studying sea turtles you can easily make a simple model of one using a Styrofoam ball, Styrofoam sheets, and tissue paper. They are easy and fun to make.

Cut the Styrofoam ball in half using a serrated knife. You will need only one half to create one turtle.

Draw seven triangles on the side of the thinner flat piece of Styrofoam. They should be approximately two and half inches long. These will be the ridges on the back of your turtle. Cut them out using your knife.

Use a hot glue gun to apply the ridges down the length of the Styrofoam ball. Because you are using thin Styrofoam, they should bend easily without breaking. Trim off any excess that sticks out past the end of your turtle.

Lay your hand flat on the thicker piece of flat Styrofoam. Use a pencil to trace your thumb. This will be your turtle's head. Trace your index finger four times. These will be your turtle’s flippers. Trace your pinky. This will be your turtle’s tail. Use the serrated knife to cut out the shapes, and cut the ends off so that the head is approximately two inches long, the flippers are one inch long and the tail is half an inch long.

Use a hot glue gun to attach the head, legs, and tail to the Styrofoam shell. It is easiest to attach the legs and tail on the underside and the head on the side.

Create a decoupage glue by mixing one cup of white wood glue with one cup of water.

Tear up several pieces of grey or black tissue paper into half-inch pieces. Use a paintbrush to paint a layer of your homemade glue over the turtle. Attach the strips and use the paintbrush to add another layer of glue. Make sure to cover the ball, the ridges, the head, the legs, and the tail.

Add a second or third layer of paper and glue if needed to thoroughly cover the Styrofoam.

Allow the glue to dry completely. Spray your turtle with an acrylic craft sealer to give it that leathery look.