Hometown Hero: Union Elementary educator brings coral reef to life

The fragile saltwater habitat is host to all things living

There is a fish tank at Union Elementary School in Poland, but it’s not your average aquatic home. The tank at this school is a reef aquarium.

POLAND, Ohio (WYTV) – There is a fish tank at Union Elementary School in Poland, but it’s not your average aquatic home. The tank at this school is a reef aquarium.

The fragile saltwater habitat is host to all things living. There are no plastic plants in the tank.

Principal Mike Masucci is known to the kids at school as the fish man and with good reason. He’s the person behind the special project.

“He was able to think outside the box and recognize the benefits that one school of fish can have on our school and children,” said Beth Bodine, with the PTO of Union Elementary.

Masucci said the idea may have been his, but it he couldn’t have done it alone.

“The generosity of our PTO, parents, the community quickly led us to getting a 120-gallon tank because we outgrew the 55-gallon tank,” Masucci said. “It’s been a labor of love. The kids love it, and that is what is most important to me.”

The filtration system alone is very expensive. For that, Masucci started writing letters, and the donations began coming in.

“We received so many donations from across the country that has allowed us to maintain, monitor, and clean everything,” Masucci said.

Kids at the elementary school aren’t the only ones to benefit. The project bridges the gap between the older kids up the street at the high school. Older students come in and work with the younger ones using Chromebooks to create presentations about something living in the tank, whether it be a fish or a piece of coral.

The aquarium can be seen 24 hours a day with a web cam, and Masucci can even feed the fish remotely with an app from his phone.

“The best part of this project has been what it has done to bring fathers into our school,” Masucci said. “Dave Minehart and Eric Ohlan have been extremely helpful in getting this project started. A father who doesn’t even have kids in this building, Dave Smith, spends the most time here out of everyone,” Masucci said.

The tank, the principal and the idea are the reasons why Principal Mike Masucci is this week’s WYTV Hometown Hero.