SILVER SPRING, Md.– Astronaut Richard “Ricky” Arnold told students at Glenallan Elementary School today they are all part of the crew of “Spaceship Earth.”
The third through fifth graders heard from the astronaut as part of a World Water Day event sponsored by Water Education for Teachers— or Project WET— a nationwide organization that educates parents, teachers and communities about the importance of water and its conservation.
Arnold lived and worked on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2009 and again in 2018 and has logged more than 200 days in space, including 32 hours of spacewalks.
During his presentation, Arnold shared photos and videos of himself and his work aboard the ISS. A video of the aurora borealis from space sparked excited oohs and aahs from the roughly 300 students filling the auditorium.
“The students seemed to just be entranced by everything that Ricky was sharing with them,” said Glenallan Principle Ann Hefflin.
A running theme throughout Arnold’s talk was that people living on Earth share limited resources, just as astronauts do on the ISS.
“All of us on this planet are interconnected in ways we don’t fully understand,” Arnold said in an interview after the event. “The resources that we all share, particularly water, are critically important for our future.”
Arnold told students when his capsule touched down in Kazakhstan after a 6-month mission on the ISS, he wasn’t thinking about what country he was in; he was thinking about being home, on Earth.
“The message that he was sending [was] about, you know, all of us being humans on earth, and beyond just our country to think about ourselves as global citizens,” Hefflin said.
After Arnold’s presentation, students walked to the nearby Brookside Gardens where they saw, heard and felt the importance of water conservation at interactive stations with names like “Turtle Trouble” and “Migration Headache.” They built miniature dams, sifted plastic beads from sand and ran races, pretending to be birds migrating as their habitats disappeared.
“It’s really about understanding the value of water,” said John Etgen, the chief operating officer and senior vice president of Project WET. “Even though it’s a blue planet … we need to understand how valuable and how precious water is.”
“When you’re looking down at Earth from the space station, you wonder why we call it ‘Planet Earth’ when we should probably call it ‘Planet Ocean,’ ” Arnold said. “The planet we call home is pretty special.”