By Andrea Cordle
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
This quote is from “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. It is a message South-Western City Schools District teacher Amy McKinney Mastroianni wants to leave with her students.
Mastroianni has been an educator in the district for 12 years. She teaches English at Harmon Elementary. Previously, Mastroianni was a third grade teacher at Darbydale Elementary School. There, she and her students started a year-long recycling project inspired by “The Lorax.”
The project ended up as such a success that Mastroianni earned the title Conservation Teacher of the Year by the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District.
This award is given to an educator in Franklin County who goes above and beyond to bring environmental experiences to his or her students. The award recipient must teach environmental awareness with a focus on conservation of local natural resources.
“Amy is proactive. She is enthusiastic about the environment,” said Linda Pettit, an environmental education specialist with the conservation district.
Mastroianni received a grant from the South-Western Educational Foundation for the service project. She said “The Lorax” was the cornerstone of the project and it taught the Darbydale students about the consequences humans have on the environment.
“I speak for the trees.”
This Dr. Seuss quote became the student mantra.
Mastroianni took the students on a field trip to the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio.
“They experienced trash,” said Mastroianni.
She said the students were impacted by the amount of trash they saw. They wanted to reduce the amount of trash in the local landfill. Since paper makes up at least half of what is in our landfills, the students decided to implement a paper-recycling project. The goal – recycle 200 pounds of paper and save 17 trees.
Mastroianni said at the end of year, students met that goal.
“This award means a great deal to me because I am so passionate about teaching,” said Mastroianni. “I am helping to give these students the power to change their world.”
Pettit said the South-Western teacher thinks outside the box to help others make the connection of human impact and natural resources. She said when “The Lorax” came out on the big screen, Mastroianni helped to set up a display and activity center at a local movie theater to spread the conservation message.
“Amy is a great partner,” said Pettit. “She is always looking for new experiences and ways to help those around her.”
In addition to the in-depth Darbydale recycling service project, Mastroianni took her students seining at Big Darby Creek to study water quality and animal life. She had students study rock and soil with a trip to the Olentangy Indian Caverns. She even helped students grow a vegetable garden, and then donated the goods to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
“I just love our Earth,” said Mastroianni. “We have a responsibility to protect and preserve it.”
Though Mastroianni now teaches English to all elementary grade levels and no longer has to cover the sciences, she said she still plans to carry on her message of conservation.
Pettit said, “I am sure she will find a way to introduce her students to the natural resources around them.”
Mastroianni was presented with the 2013 Conservation Teacher of the Year Award earlier this month.