It’s a fox, it’s a raccoon, it’s a red panda

I really thought we left dioramas behind in elementary school but Katy’s AP biology teacher thought it would be fun to do something besides another strictly research project. I wish teachers would quit trying to make school fun! So, enter the Zoo Project. Each student was to pick an animal, preferably endangered or threatened, and prepare a diorama of a zoo habitat, following the same regulations as a zoo would (water, shade, and so on). Her favorite, the sea turtle, got snatched up right away. She didn’t want to do a narwhal (my suggestion) because she would have to suspend it. She finally settled on the red panda. A red panda looks like a fox with a raccoon tail and I’ve spent the last two weeks calling it a fox.

He is a cute little fellow, even if he does look like he’s made up of spare parts.

Katy started making some general plans, thinking about what she might need. Particularly, how was she going to make the panda? She was really excited to find that Calico Critters has a red panda family.

The clothes come off and they are jointed, so it would be perfect. That was Thursday night so I told Katy I’d check Friday with our local Learning Express to see if they had them in stock as they carry a good Calico Critters line. They didn’t so I ordered them on Amazon. Friday after school we made a dash to Joann’s. Normally I would have sent her by herself but we had another errand I needed to go with her on and it was nearby. Guess what? Joann’s sells Calico Critters! Guess what else? They didn’t have the red pandas. Guess what else? Looking at the animals they did have it was obvious they were going to be too big and heavy.  So I got out my phone and canceled my Amazon order. Katy was also hoping to buy some plastic trees in that same aisle but all they had were tall palm trees. Katy got out her phone, sat down on the floor, and started looking up photos of red panda dioramas and how to possibly make the actual animal and trees. How did we get anything done before the internet? So she gathered up felt and pipe cleaners and moss and twigs from over in the floral department and a few others items that looked like they might work.

Back home she got a box — thank goodness we have a stash of them in the garage — and set to work. With one small setback. She came in the living room and said “I legit don’t remember how to make a diorama”. She had forgotten where to even start. She figured it out.

She got the box done. The pandas took a few tries but she finally came up with something pretty cute. The multi-colored pack of pipe cleaners had every color except white.  A plea on the neighborhood Facebook page turned up white pipe cleaners. This was Sunday and Katy was having to get a good bit done before heading off to six hours of Guys and Dolls rehearsal.

The picture is terrible, the pandas were pretty cute.

This is the almost-finished diorama. She needed to make a sign with the common and scientific names but they had a workday today in class so she was going to finish it up there. It’s due tomorrow. She also told me she decided to take out a panda and changed the research part of the project (they had to write about three pages) to reflect that the exhibit only has one panda. I said “you aren’t planning on having any babies?”. She said “no”.

Oh, she said she also found out from other students that Michael’s has plastic trees but they cost as much as she spent on the whole project, including some unused things she can return. And I think it looks better with the natural moss and twigs. The yellow things are nesting boxes. That was another challenge. Katy’s original plan was to make origami nesting boxes then she realized just how small they would have to be. She asked if we had any small squares and Heath came up with a box of extra pieces for the Risk game so she glued four of those together to make squares. I guess it doesn’t matter if they’re not hollow.

And we’re both glad this is over with.



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