Desert Life

Build a desert landscape for your classroom with flowering cacti and colourful lizards. A large, shallow tray filled with Sand Clay and rocks makes a realistic desert base to display childrens’ models. Cacti have adapted to living in hot and dry habitats by storing water and they have spines or thorns instead of leaves.

Desert Life

Skill Level

Beginner - KS2. Adult supervision needed

Time to Make

Up to 1 hour per model + drying time for Mod Roc and paint

Adult Supervision Needed


How to Make

  1. To make a cactus stem shape, scrunch up a plastic bag or some tissue paper, push it into the top of a cardboard tube then stick masking tape over the top. A 10cm tube makes a small cactus or 15-20cm for a taller one.
  2. For a cactus arm, place 2 pipe cleaners together, bend them in half then twist together to make a 15cm length. Bend out the 4 end pieces and tape onto the side of the cactus stem. Add another arm in the same way. Trim the pipe cleaners to make a shorter length.
  3. To make a lizard shape, place 3 pipe cleaners together then twist them together. Bend one end into a 4cm loop for the head, twisting the ends to hold the loop in place.
  4. For the lizard’s legs, cut 2 pipe cleaners in half to make 4 x 15cm pieces then twist each piece around the body, so they are evenly spaced with 2 legs on either side of the body. Cut another pipe cleaner into 4 short pieces. Twist each piece around the legs, 5cm from the end, making 3 toes. Trim the toes with scissors to shorten if you need to.
  5. Tightly wrap a small plastic bag or some tissue paper around the head loop to fill out the shape. Wrap more layers around the middle to make it thicker for the body. Wrap the tail and legs then add some masking tape to hold the shape. The pipe cleaners should be covered, but you can bend them to adjust the position of the lizard’s head, legs and tail.
  6. Dip Mod Roc strips into water for a few seconds, squeeze out any excess water before layering the strips over the cactus and lizard. Smooth over the plaster with your fingers. Carefully wrap thinner Mod Roc strips for around the lizard’s legs and toes. Leave to dry overnight.
  7. Paint the cactus and lizard. Leave to dry. Add a second coat of paint of you need to and some spotty patterns on the lizard. Leave to dry.
  8. Squeeze lines of glue onto the cactus, or use a small brush. Stick string over the glue to make a raised pattern then leave to to dry. Stick colourful foam flowers onto the cactus.
  9. Glue 2 beads for eyes onto the lizard’s head. Curl a small strip of pink paper for the tongue and stick it in place.
Desert Life Desert Life Desert Life

Top Tip

Before you start working with Mod Roc cover your work surface, cut Mod Roc strips into 20cm lengths and fill a bowl with water. You may find it easier to wear disposable vinyl gloves, as it's quite messy!

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