de Youngsters Studio: Fun in the Sculpture Garden

By Hannah Freeman, Senior Teaching Artist

May 8, 2020

de Youngsters Studio making a diorama garden activity video thumbnail

The collections at the de Young include two sculpture gardens. These gardens are specially designed to compliment a variety of sculptures that are both abstract and representational. This diorama activity provides young artists a chance to experiment with materials and consider how best to display the sculptures they create.


  • 12” square thick paper, or a brown grocery bag
  • Scissors, pencil, ruler
  • Glue (sticks, white glue, hot glue gun) masking tape, whatever you have
  • Selection of decorative papers, tissue paper, images from magazines, printed photos, colored construction paper, etc
  • Selection of small objects: corks, bottle tops, twist ties, yarn, string, cardboard, scratch paper, foil, bubble wrap, packing peanuts etc
  • Coloring pencils or markers (optional)

Question to consider

  • Do you have some ideas already, or will you wait to see what materials you have and be inspired by them?


  1. Start with your 12” square thick paper, fold in half. Unfold, then fold in half the other way (so the fold lines make 4 small squares.) Open it flat and cut along one of the fold lines to the center. 
  2. Lift up the two squares either side of the cut line, and overlap them to create your 3D shape. (This can be stuck down later, but it’s easier to keep it flat to decorate.
    Option 2: If you don’t have 12” square thick paper, you could use a brown grocery bag. Fold the bag down flat. With a ruler, measure out the width of the bag’s base (most standard grocery bags are about 7” wide) and mark the same measurement along the length of the bag’s base from the corner. With the bag still folded flat, cut through the base of the bag and the sides of the bag together (cutting out the corner of the bag, you will have 4 sides of a cube). Open it up, cut down one of the corner folds, fold that loose flap inwards to create a double thickness “floor” for your diorama. Stick this down.
  3. Now your diorama is ready to decorate. You get to pick from your selection of papers and images.
    Think about colors and experiment with creating texture. You can fold or crinkle paper before you stick it down. You can cut, layer and arrange your papers in interesting ways. Do you want to use bright colors with lots of contrast, or subtle colors that softly blend? If you prefer, you could draw with your pencils or markers straight onto the diorama...
  4. Once you have decorated both walls and the floor of your diorama, you are ready to make you sculptures!
    Think about how many sculptures you want to create. Consider having a variety of heights, colors and materials. Try to come up with ways of creating different textures.
    Interesting sculptural forms can be created by scrunching up scratch paper to get the basic shape, which can then be covered with other materials: wrapped in yarn or twine, covered in foil or colored tissue paper glued down.
    Keep in mind some materials are harder to use than others. Objects like plastic bottle tops or corks are easier to stick with a hot glue gun, but great care must be taken not to get burned. (You can use white glue, but the objects will need to be held together for awhile until the glue has begun to dry.) 
  5. Once you have made your sculptures, you can arrange them in your garden diorama.
    To help them stay in place, you can roll a little loop of masking tape and stick it underneath.


  1. If you could make a second sculpture garden, what would you do differently?
  2. If you could have any art material to make this project, what would it be?
  3. Where and how will you display your sculpture garden?


You could put your sculpture garden near a window so people walking by can see it. Or you could take a picture and send it to your friends and family to show them what you’ve made. We would love to see what you make too, please tag us on any social platform with #deyoungsters.

The de Youngsters Studio art-making activity video tutorial is posted every Friday at 1 pm on our YouTube and Instagram IGTV channels. Follow us, and let's create together.

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