AUBURN — Cameron Sutton could be called Ms. Earth Day.

She knows her trees, water, leaves, things that rot and become a new part of the environment.

Sutton, 33, an Auburn Middle School science teacher, is among five teachers in the country chosen as an outstanding educator by an environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation.

The foundation offers a curriculum program, “Project Learning Tree,” that she uses in class and with other teachers.

As a Project Learning Tree winner, she’ll attend two educational conferences, one in Alabama, another in Oregon.

Sutton comes across as energetic and enthusiastic. She’s big on conservation. Her message: “Everything is connected.”

Sutton served as an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection teaching people about water supplies.

“Water is limited and important,” she said. “There are things every person can do to make a difference to our water supply” and also cut water bills. Her work was to make people more aware of preserving a resource. There is no water shortage in Maine, but “worldwide, our population is growing.”

She encourages her students to ponder whether lawns need to be watered every day or if lawns need fertilizers and pesticides that may eventually find their way to rivers and oceans.

Sutton advocates people turn off the water when brushing their teeth, avoid long showers and run the dishwater only when it’s full.

“I drink water every day. I don’t like dumping out water,” she said. “I dump it in my plants.” The same goes for water bottles left in her classroom.

She grew up in Minnesota, spending lots of time outdoors camping near lakes. She came to Maine after college to spend a summer working at the Maine Conservation School, now the Bryant Pond 4-H Camp. She never left.

From there she went to DEP, then became an Auburn Land Lab teacher. She is now in her second year of teaching middle-schoolers.

A career in teaching became obvious, she said, after studying environmental education in college. “I love kids, I was a good babysitter, I love science. Environmental education was that perfect marriage,” she said.

She described science as a fascinating subject. “It involves every other subject — math, history, social studies, writing. There’s science in music, in art, in everything. That’s really neat that you can learn how everything works.”

She tells her students it’s OK not to have all the answers. “I try to help students understand there are so many resources, let’s use them well. We need to know how to find and categorize everything.”

At the middle school, she has the same students for two years. Seventh-graders learn ecology and biology; eighth-graders chemistry and astronomy. They do “a lot of digging in the dirt” studying bacteria, worms and fungus to learn how things decompose and become part of the ecosystem.

“Everything has a cycle and gets reused naturally in the environment.”

In chemistry students are learning about matter, “understanding that atoms make up everything we see. That’s kind of mind blowing.”

When Russia was hit by an asteroid, her students came to class talking about it. “We sat in class and watched YouTube” videos from the scene in Russia. That’s the beauty of technology, she said, bringing class lessons to life.

After two years, as her students move on to high school, her goal is that they’ll “realize that science is everywhere; science is about connections. I hope that they think about the world a little bit differently.”

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