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Like many good things in life, the inspiration for Bottle Biology arose unexpectedly — in this case from a pile of autumn leaves. While raking his garden, Paul Williams, a professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, asked himself what might be going on in the middle of the large compost pile he was creating. Why not put some of the leaves in an empty soda bottle and watch them to find out, he wondered. The result: The Decomposition Column and the beginning of Bottle Biology.

Hands-on, eyes-on, noses-on, mouths-on, minds-on: If you combine science with a soda bottle, what do you get? Two liter soda pop bottles orbiting Earth with NASA, might be one result. But did you know you can use bottles to create an ecosystem, explore the concept of niche, and model a lakeshore? You may have made a tornado in a bottle but have you used bottles to pickle your own cabbage? Have you made a bottle microscope, a bottle timer or bottle tweezers?

This website is full of ways you can use recyclable containers to learn and teach about science and the environment. The projects on this website promote science as a tool everyone can use to explore the world. These explorations can be integrated with history, art, music and other creative endeavors.

Out of the trash, into the classroom: You'll find the inexpensive materials you need for Bottle Biology in your trash can, backyard, supermarket, neighborhood park and recycling center.


National Science Foundation   Bottle Biology, an instructional materials development program, was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation administered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.   Wisconsin Fast Plants