Group labors to give students an astronaut's view of Earth Photos adorn schools in city, Baltimore Co.

April 22, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Thousands of students in Baltimore and Baltimore County will have a little extra inspiration for celebrating Earth Day today. When they look around their classrooms, they'll catch a glimpse of Earth as photographed by Americans on the moon 20 years ago.

The folks who put those space photos in Maryland's classrooms hope the students will realize how small their planet is and how connected their lives are to those of its other inhabitants. "We think that it speaks without words," says Sue Garonzik, a member of the Foundation for Global Community. "It shows a sense of connectedness -- between one country and another, between one system and another."

More than three years ago, the Baltimore contingent of the national grass-roots environmental group decided to put the photo, which the crew of Apollo 17 took in December 1972, in every classroom in the city and county -- and eventually in the state.

"The generation born since the '60s . . . is the first generation to have this [image of Earth] in its consciousness for their whole lives," says Ms. Garonzik. "This is really what the Earth looks like. It isn't yellow and green and red and blue."

The volunteers intended to complete the project, "Our Earth in Every Classroom," by Earth Day 1990. Three years later, they are still at it, slowed by the recession.

"Our ambition was much greater than our ability to raise money," says Wayne Ruddock. "Corporate support dried up almost immediately," so the group has been relying on small donations, mostly from individuals.

So far, the foundation has put the Earth portrait in 4,500 classrooms, mostly in public schools in the city and county. Each framed 19-by-23-inch photo costs about $8.

"When we get the next 1,000 delivered, we will be over halfway there," says Mr. Ruddock, a retiree from Baldwin.

By June, the group hopes to have money for yet another 1,000 photos. Other foundation groups are working in Montgomery and Carroll counties. Each time the foundation presents photos, members also give a lesson on Earth and how each person can care for it. Some of the lessons are taught by animal puppets who stress that "every living being has its purpose . . . including each of these kids. It helps kids feel a part of something," says Wendy Cooper, one of the volunteer teachers and a Towson psychotherapist.

The lessons generally stress three ideas: "We are one family sharing one home; what we do to the Earth we do to ourselves; we are responsible for the choices we make about how we will live together on the Earth," says the group's study guide.

"The little ones are so impressed, and they are the future. That is what is so exciting to me," says Ms. Cooper.

The volunteers say they have gotten only positive responses to their project.

"The students in my school are very ecologically minded, and just having that in the classroom has led to a lot of conversation," says Dwayne W. Johnson, principal at Stemmers Run Middle School in eastern Baltimore County, where the photos have been hanging for more than a year.

At Baltimore's Lake Clifton-Eastern High School, administrators wrote to the foundation, saying "this space picture very well signifies how everyone, regardless of geographic location or boundaries, all share the Earth as our common home. We hope this picture . . . makes everyone aware of the need to stop polluting."

The Foundation for Global Community is a nonprofit educational organization. Anyone interested in volunteering can write the group at Box 20151, Baltimore 21284 or call (410) 377-2197.

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