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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Explore More About Bottle Construction

Central America and Mexico, Guatemala
Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Grades K-2
Environment, Foreign Language, Health, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies & Geography

Many Peace Corps Volunteers collaborate with their host communities to make the best use of locally available materials. Explore the stories from Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Guatemala and collaborated with community members on bottle construction projects. Then extend students' learning from these stories using the accompanying teaching suggestions.

Across Guatemala, Peace Corps Volunteers have worked with communities to turn some often overlooked local materials—plastic bottles and trash—into a functional building material. By stuffing plastic soda bottles with inorganic trash to create eco-ladrillos, or "eco-bricks", Guatemalan communities are finding a creative way to address the issue of waste disposal while simultaneously meeting their needs for new buildings like schools and community centers.


Suggested extension activities:

Math: Select one or more bottle construction stories to view Building a Better Future, A Community Effort, or the Self e-book (links above). Then draw a blueprint for your own building made from eco-bricks. Include measurements for the height, length, and width of your structure, and calculate the total surface area of its walls. Next, find the measurements of one soda bottle (eco-brick). How many bottles would you need to build walls for the structure you designed?

Science: View the photo gallery,Bottle Construction 'How-to' (link above). Discuss why eco-bricks would be stuffed with inorganic rather than organic trash. Look in your trash can and identify the organic and inorganic items. Research and graph the decomposition time of these items. Why would some items decompose more quickly than others? Which ones would you recommend for filling eco-bricks?

Foreign Language: Listen to the Spanish translation of the e-book Self (link above). Look up any words that are unfamiliar to you. Practice reading the text out loud in Spanish and paraphrase each page in English with a partner. Consider using the book as a model for writing your own story that gives instructions in Spanish about how to do something.

Social Studies: Investigate your local trash collection system. Where does the trash and recycling go once it leaves your house or school building? How much funding does it take to operate each year? How much trash does the average household produce? Research these questions for a community in Guatemala or another area of the world. How do waste disposal issues compare to your community? Why do you think these similarities or differences exist?

Language Arts. View the slideshows Building a Better Future and A Community Effort (links above). Compare and contrast the two stories. What were some of the differences between the stories and their settings? What are some of the themes that the two stories share? How do the authors express the theme of collaboration, or working together? Write about a time when teamwork helped you accomplish something that you might not have been able to accomplish on your own.

Geography. Research the geographic features of Guatemala. Create a map illustrating major geographic features, large cities, and the regions featured in Building a Better Future, A Community Effort, and Self (links above). How do you think a community's location might relate to waste disposal issues? How do you think these issues differ from rural to urban communities?

Frameworks & Standards




  • Content Standard: Geometry
  • Content Standard: Measurement


  • Content Standard C: Life Science
  • Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Foreign Language

  • Standard 1: Communication
  • Standard 5: Communities

Social Studies

  • Thematic Strand III : People, Places, and Environments
  • Thematic Strand VII : Production, Distribution, and Consumption
  • Thematic Strand IX: Global Connections

Language Arts

  • Standard 1: Reading for Understanding
  • Standard 4: Communication through Spoken, Written, and Visual Language
  • Standard 5: Writing Strategies/Elements of the Writing Process


  • Essential Element II: Places and Regions
  • Essential Element V: Environment and Society
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