Friday, May 16, 2008

Reusing and Recycling - A Lesson from Grandma Prisbrey

There are times when I purposely set out to give my children a lesson about the environment and there are times when the lessons just come up naturally. One of those times was the other day when my son noticed that there was some plastic trash in the compost we had picked up for the garden. I was able to explain about how long it takes natural elements to break down and how long it takes plastics to break down. Quick, easy lesson.

Another lesson came later that day when he and I sat down to read some of the books we'd gotten from the library. I've taken to picking out one age appropriate biography for him and had grabbed a book called Bottle Houses: The Creative World of Grandma Prisbrey.

In the 1950's and 1960's, Grandma Prisbrey built one room "houses" out of bottles that she had found at the local landfill. Beautiful, colorful houses. She furnished everything in these houses from things she found at the dump. People began to view these houses as art, and eventually Grandma Prisbrey built walkways out of things she found from the dump so people could easily come to visit.

These houses still exist in Simi Valley, California, although they suffered damage in the 1994 earthquake. 

The book is beautifully illustrated and the author makes these bottle houses sound so inviting that my son and I want to go see them. NOW. We can't do that, but  there are several websites that we were able to visit to find out more information and see pictures.

What I loved is that reading the book led into a natural discussion about reusing and recycling. The book never once uses the words "reusing" or "recycling." It's not written as a book that was meant to be an environmental lesson. It's a loving tribute to Grandma Prisbrey and her folk art. But the lesson is naturally there, anyway.

Here are some of the websites I found.

Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village - This looks to be a site put together by those who run the village.
Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village Tour - a YouTube video with footage from the village set to a Modest Mouse song. My five year old really likes to watch this over and over.
Bottle Village Walkway of Fame - Another YouTube video that has close up shots of the materials that were used in her buildings, and also tributes to those who contribute to its preservation.

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