GREENMOUNT — The eighth-graders at North Carroll Middle School are planning to buy a piece of tropical real estate they'll probably never set foot on.
The 10 acres of rain forest they hope to buy and protect from destruction are in Belize, a small Central American country.
To make the purchase, they have to raise $360 through an April 30fund-raiser. For the last two periods that day, the eighth-graders will hold a fair and a penny drive.
"We'll know we made a difference, because our land will be there and the developers can't touch it,"said eighth-grader Jennifer Hand, daughter of Iris Hand of Hampstead.
It won't be the first time North Carroll Middle students have saved rain forest from a backhoe. Last year's eighth-gradersbought 3.5 acres in Guatemala.
In both cases, the land is bought through The Nature Conservancy, an organization based in Arlington, Va., that purchases and protects rain forests. The students will have no rights tothe land like a traditional owner, said social studies teacher CraigGiles, the school's service coordinator.
Hand and several classmates rose to a challenge from reading teacher Dick Osman, who, for thesake of argument, said in class that a few people couldn't make a difference with a problem as big as the destruction of rain forests.
Only about a third of the class said he was wrong, said Kerrie Crouch, daughter of Robert and Kathy Crouch of Hampstead. But now, Kerrie and Jennifer think a poll of students today would show most believe he was wrong.
"I guess we proved to Mr. Osman that a couple of people could make a difference," Jennifer said.
The students want to save the rain forests because clearing of the land for development, timber and agriculture is believed to lead to global warming and the destruction of several species of plants and animals.
The eighth-graders essentially are raising the money from each other.
At the fair, they will pay a certain number of pennies to play a game. One example is a "rain forest maze" the students have devised.
It might have been a lot easier just to ask the 300 eighth-graders to pitch in adollar each. But the students decided it would be more fun to plan the fair and penny drive.
"If we told them to bring in money, they'd say, 'Oh, why?,' " Kerrie said, mimicking an unenthusiastic attitude.
"This is more challenging," said Christina Evans, daughter of Patty and Bob Evans of Hampstead. "We wanted to do something more fun."
Kerrie said the students are all looking forward to the fair.
"I was at the bus stop and people were saying, 'I can't wait,' " shesaid. Mostly, everyone is looking forward to getting out of class for the last two periods, she said.
"I feel bad for the sixth- and seventh-graders," Jennifer said.
But the underclassmen may get their chance, too, said Giles.
If the fair goes well for the eighth-graders, the school may repeat the fair for younger students, he said.
The five girls doing most of the planning sat yesterday in the school library and realized they'd have to count out 36,000 pennies into720 rolls. They felt just a bit overwhelmed.
"I think it's time to get people to help us roll pennies," Jennifer said.