How to Make American Civil War Dioramas for Kids

By Buffy Naillon ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Research materials
  • Shoe box
  • Card stock
  • Drawing supplies
  • Scissors
  • Twigs
  • Grass clippings
  • Deer moss
  • Cotton balls
  • Evergreen branches
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Colored pencils
  • Glue
Use photos to help you draw the diorama characters.

The American Civil War represented a time when the United States stood divided. The battle to end slavery and the cessation of the South from the Union, lead the country into war. Students of all ages study this important event, which historians consider to be the first modern war, according to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Making a project such as a diorama allows kids to bring these events back to life in a three-dimensional format.

Ask the kids to do some research about the Civil War. One way to incorporate this project into a cross-curriculum format is to assign a report. The students can use the information they gather during the research project, as well as the photos to help them create realistic diorama scenes.

Determine the scale of the diorama. Let the size of the box you're using to make the diorama help you to decide what scale to use for the project. A good rule of thumb is 1 inch for every 1 foot of height. For example, if you're making an army with the average person standing 6 feet tall in life, then their counterparts in the diorama would stand 6 inches tall.

Draw the characters for the Civil War scene on card stock. Make sure to also draw a tab on the bottom of each character; you'll fold this part later and glue it to the bottom of the shoe box so the character stands up. The tab will be an extra square of card stock looks a bit like the tab stands put on the feet of paper dolls to make them stand up. Make the tab about 1 inch-by-1 inch; don't cut the tab off the feet of the card stock character.

Draw the weaponry on card stock. Make weaponry such a canons and guns. Include a tab on the bottom of these as well.

Make the background in the diorama. Place battlefield items such as trees, grasses, fences and homes into the box first and glue them down in your shoe box. Use the grass clippings, pine twigs, cotton and other elements to create these. Use your reference photos for inspiration.

Glue the characters, the canons and other elements into the diorama, making sure they stand up.

Tip

If you're stumped for ideas, a good place to start is to create a diorama of a famous battle, because photos often exist from these events. Draw the people in the positions that you see them in the photos. Make drawings of foot soldiers, soldiers on horses, battle nurses and others.

Warning

Sometimes your characters will refuse to stand upright in the diorama. If this is the case, remedy this problem by folding the flap at the bottom of the characters' feet and place a wad of tacky putty into the folded corner on the back side of the character. Make sure that the tacky is stuck to both the flap that's glued to the floor of the box and the back of the card stock character. This functions as a stand reinforcement.

About the Author

Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.