After my presentation at the Congreso in Michoacan, a swarthy heavyset man pushed his way through the crowd and introduced himself to me as Maestro (teacher) Jose Herrera Marquez. Bubbling with enthusiasm, he said he was my “soul mate.” He loved my books on community health and rehabilitation, he explained, because they not only “cut through the garbage” but also put it to use—by giving people ideas about how to use local resources and waste materials to make assistive devices and other equipment. (Our book Nothing About Us Without Us has chapters on making assistive equipment out of old tires, old cardboard boxes, and even mud.)

Maestro Jose looks and acts more like a backwoods farmer than a schoolteacher. Yet he has a degree in Special Education and works with the Morelia Department of Education as a roving Pied Piper, visiting schools and holding workshops on the creation of educational toys and learning games out of garbage—especially old plastic containers and disposable paper plates and cups. He has a display of his innovative creations under a series of makeshift tarps in a fenced in yard he calls the “Museo de Basura” (Museum of Garbage). The array of colorful extravaganza— including serpentine gizmos over 2 meters tall—give the visitor a sense of an extraterrestrial Fantasia.

Educational Toys and Learning Games Made from Throw-Away Items

With the help of teachers and students in the schools in which he conducts workshops, Jose Herrera has come up with a great variety of educational toys and learning games made from throw away items, including paper plates, bowls and cups.