Deserts and Forests: Third Grade Students Construct Biome Models

Recently, Mount Madonna School (MMS) third grade students learned about ecology by building their own biome dioramas. 

The project included a unit study on the world’s six different biome regions: tundra, coniferous, deciduous, tropical rainforest, grasslands and deserts. Students learned how to identify a biome, what plant and animal life thrive in different climates, and where in the world the different biomes exist. 

The students each chose a biome that interested them and got to work recreating a realistic model using cardboard, recyclables, art supplies and other objects. 

“Everyone picked their own to research so that student choice and curiosity drove the project” said Madeline Hayes, MMS third grade teacher. “Then we displayed our learning by letting our creative juices flow through a diorama and student-led discussion about what was learned.”

The student presentations gave students an opportunity to practice their public speaking, active listening and engagement skills. 

“I really liked reading the biome books,” said third grade student Lyra Brinton. “And I enjoyed making my biome too. I noticed one of my biome’s animals — the bison —hides in its environment, so I created a ‘find the hidden bison’ game with my biome.”

The students were particularly interested in the animals that make their habitat in their chosen biome. Student Orion Wolfe chose the desert for his project, and enjoyed learning that the desert is actually full of wildlife. 

“I liked the sand cat especially,” Wolfe said. “I didn’t know there was a thing called a sand cat!”

Student Katherine Nissly chose the deciduous forest, which makes up much of northern California. 

“I learned that there was a lizard with yellow spots on them, and they camouflage on leaves in the deciduous forest,” Nissly said.  “I also learned that there are a lot of maple trees that were alive when dinosaurs were alive.”

“It was a beautiful learning experience that blended science, engineering and presentation skills,” Hayes said.


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.