LIFE WEBS – Clans, Diorama, Habitat, Form

Students choose a unique habitat within Canada and create a diorama of it. They make connections between the animal/plant life within the habitat, and the traditional life ways of the Aboriginal people. 

Required Time

120 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 3 to Grade 8


Social Studies
Visual Arts
First Nations, Metis, Inuit


balance depth diorama form habitat space texture variety


Crayola Modeling Clay - Jumbo Pack Crayola Project Paint Crayola Paint Bushes Crayola Washable Glue Crayola Scissors Paper Towels Shoebox or Small Cardboard Box - 1 per student Bamboo Skewers or Toothpicks Clay Carving Tools - optional Water Containers Found Natural Objects

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LIFE WEBS – Clans, Diorama, Habitat, Form - Step One

Step One

  1. Choose a unique area in Canada.
  2. Brainstorm a variety of plants and animals that are part of the habitat.
  3. Use coloured pencils to draw the plants and animals that are a part of the habitat.
  4. Include the names of the plants and animals in the drawing.
LIFE WEBS – Clans, Diorama, Habitat, Form - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Use a small cardboard box (a shoebox works well) to create your diorama of the habitat you have chosen.
  2. Begin by painting the box with colours connected to the land, water, and sky. 
  3. Continue painting a variety of colours on the cardboard box to represent the habitat you have chosen.
  4. Blend colours together, for example, blue, white and dark blue, to give the illusion of depth.
  5. Paint the entire box.
  6. Allow the paint to dry.


LIFE WEBS – Clans, Diorama, Habitat, Form - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Begin creating the animals that live in the habitat.
  2. Use modeling clay to sculpt each animal.
  3. Make small shapes, then blend the shapes together creating an animal form. 
  4. Use sculpture tools such as popsicle sticks and toothpicks to add texture to your animal.
  5. Use contrasting colours to add detail to your animal form and clarify the features.
LIFE WEBS – Clans, Diorama, Habitat, Form - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Roll modeling clay in your hands, or use a garlic press to create thin sticks, or plant stems.
  2. Make a beaver's home by using a flat piece of modeling clay for the base, and covering it with thin rolls of modeling clay.
LIFE WEBS – Clans, Diorama, Habitat, Form - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Continue to add details to your habitat.
  2. Create plants and animals using contrasting colours and a variety of 3-dimensional forms.
  3. Make sure your habitat is balanced.
  4. Glue moss, bark, or dried plants to your habitat to help it appear more realistic.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • make connections between the animal/plant life within a unique Canadian habitat, and the traditional life ways of Aboriginal People living within or near the habitat;
  • create a diorama of a unique habitat within Canada;
  • use modeling clay to sculpt animals and plants that are part of the habitat; 
  • create land, water, and sky using a variety of paints and found objects from nature.


Have students:

  • further explore and research the unique habitats near their school;
  • identify the plants and animals within the local habitats;
  • further research the First Nations people who originally lived on the land where the student's community is;
  • explore the traditional life ways of the original people, making connections between the local habitat and the people's way of life;
  • compare the way people live there now, with that of the traditional way of life of the First Nations people living there in the past;
  • create a variety of tableaux representing different habitats;
  • share their tableaux with others.


  1. Prior to the lesson download background information about the Aboriginal artists from the Woodlands School of Canadian Art. Download images from the Internet, and/or find images in books or magazines of artworks created by the following Woodlands artists:
    Norval Morrisseau
    Daphne Odjig
    Carl Ray
    Alex Javier
  2. Background knowledge about the traditional Clan System from the perspective of a member of the Mushkegowuk Cree First Nations - 
    Traditionally, the people based family groupings on a Clan System. Clan names came from animals who cared for their young within the natural habitat of the people. In the Attawapiskat region of the James Bay Lowlands Clan names came from animals such as bear, eagle, wolf, loon. The Clan you belonged to would determine who you could marry. After the missionaries came to the region and took children to residential schools the Clan System changed, names were changed and Clans became confused, the family organizations that had been in place for generations began to disappear.
  3. For more information about the Clan system from the perspective of the Yukon First Nations follow the link below (Teacher's Guide.pdf).
    Yukon First Nations                   
  4. Gather images of plants and animals from a variety of habitats located in Canada. Download images from the Internet, and/or find images in books or magazines of various animals and vegetation, for example,
    Black Spruce
  5. Download information about different habitats within Canada. The Ecological Framework of Canada describes a variety of Canadian ecozones.
    Ecological Framework
    Map of Canada's Ecozones


  1. Introduce the students to the Aboriginal artists from the Woodlands School of Canadian Art. Examine artworks by Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray, and Alex Javier. Discuss how the artists have connected human life to the natural world (plants, animals, land, earth, sky).
    - What types of plants and animals did the artists include in their artworks? Why?
    - How did the artists create balance in their artworks?
    - How did the artist use variety in their artworks (examine: line, shape, texture)
  2. Discuss the connections between animals living in a natural habitat and the traditional Clan names used by the people living in the same region. Have students share reflections on the importance of plants and animals within a habitat for the survival of the First Peoples living in the same area.


The Challenge

  1. Discuss the connections Aboriginal peoples have with their environment.
  2. Explore a variety of habitats within Canada, focusing on the plants and animals living there.
  3. Create a diorama of a unique habitat within Canada.
  4. Create 3-dimensional plants and animals, sculpted from modeling clay, and belonging in the chosen habitat.
  5. Use a variety of materials to create a balanced habitat including the sculpted animals and plants.

The Process

  1. Have students explore a variety of habitats in Canada, and choose one.
  2. Identify the First Nations, Inuit, or Métis People living in or close to the habitat.
  3. Discuss the connections the people living within the environment have to their habitat.
  4. Identify a variety of plants and animals that are part of the habitat chosen by the student.
  5. Draw and colour the plants and animals, land, water, and sky within the natural habitat chosen. 
  6. Use coloured pencils to accurately describe the natural colouring of the species and their textures.
  7. Guide the students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  8. Observe students as they work.
  9. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Once all the artworks are complete ask students to bring their diorama artworks into a large circle.
  2. Begin by sharing connections the people living within a habitat have to the animals and plants living there too.
  3. Ask students to reflect on how we are connected to our natural world.                                                                              
  4. Invite each student to share their unique habitat and the connections people living in the area have to it.
  5. During the circle discussion include references to form, texture, variety, and balance.
  6. Reflect on and discuss why habitats are diverse.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their artworks – speaks with a clear voice, holds diorama to the side, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress (Download - Webs_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students reflect on their own artworks in their sketchbooks. Ask students: 
    What worked well in your artwork? Why?                                                                                                                       
    - What would you change or do differently next time?
    - Explain how you prefer to learn, and what life experiences inspire you to wonder.