Student photograph from Mary Ellen Newport’s ecology class at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Student Project

Document Your Place on the Planet

A student photography project inspired by the film Earthrise
Grade Level: 5-16

Project Summary

Students will watch the short film Earthrise (30 min) to learn about the historical, cultural, and environmental influences of the iconic Earthrise photograph. Inspired by the film’s message, students will take one photograph that captures their relationship and place on Earth. Each student photograph will respond to a prompt to express their relationship with their family, home, local ecology, as well as their own point of view of the living world.

The Earthrise photograph was an impetus behind the environmental movement and Earth Day, which was created 50 years ago on April 22, 1970. To celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Earth Day, we challenge students—ages 13 to 18—to enter our photography contest. 

Student photographs can be shared on social media with #RememberEarth. The goal is to generate an online gallery of places around the world from students' perspectives, documenting their relationship to the planet.

Driving Question

How does the Earthrise photograph challenge us to consider our relationship to the Earth and provide a context for what it means to be a global citizen?

Instructional Goals

  • Share cultural perspectives using photography
  • Document changing ecosystems

  • Explore observations in communities and the living world

  • Consider the implications of iconic imagery and the impact on society

  • Advocate for environmental and cultural stewardship

  • Make global to local connections

Photo: “Earthrise” by Bill Anders


Putting the Film in Context

On December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida. The three-man crew—Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and James Lovell—were part of an elite group of astronauts NASA had assembled to help fulfill John F. Kennedy’s goal to land a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s. Their mission was to orbit the moon, testing the viability of a future moon landing. They were the first men to leave Earth’s orbit behind, venturing 240,000 miles farther than anyone before them. During their lunar orbit, the crew emerged from the dark side of the moon to see the Earth rising before them. They quickly scrambled to capture the image. This was the first color photograph taken of the Earth from the moon and became known as Earthrise.

The Earthrise photograph had an everlasting impact on the astronauts and humanity, offering a powerful perspective that transcended national, political, and religious boundaries. It helped humanity to see our Earth as one ecosystem, kickstarting the environmental movement, and has become one of the most iconic and widely reproduced and distributed images in history.

Offering an opportunity to remember this shift in perspective, the film Earthrise compels us to reflect on Earth as a shared home at this unprecedented time in history and to consider how we might build on the legacy of the Earthrise photograph, 50 years later.

For an in-depth history of the Earthrise photograph, including biographies of the Apollo 8 astronauts, visit the full Earthrisecurriculum/discussion guide.

William Anders, James Lovell, and Frank Borman, (left to right) are seen inside Apollo Boilerplate during water training (NASA). The Apollo 8 space vehicle is launched from Kennedy Space Center, Dec. 21, 1968 (NASA).

Project Instructions

  1. Introduce the film Earthrise and the Earthrise photograph. Explain to students that the Apollo 8 astronauts shared the Earthrise photograph with the world-at-large which inspired environmental action, reverence, and wonder towards our planet as one ecosystem.

  2. Watch Earthrise. (30 min)

  3. Visit the full Earthrise curriculum guide for classroom discussion questions which explore the following themes: the power of perspective, bearing witness, exploration, and reverence for the environment.

  4. Students will take one photograph in response to one or more of the following prompts.

    • What is your relationship to our planet?
    • How are we all interconnected?
    • In what way is your community protecting the environment?
    • How can we change our perspective to see our planet as one home?
  5. Students will select one question and respond by taking one photograph. Images do not have to be of the natural world but should help to express students’ human relationship, as well as their own point of view with the living world. Students can turn the camera on themselves or on family, friends, or community members.

  6. Students will reflect on their photograph and the choices they made and respond to the following questions in 1-2 paragraphs:

    • How did the film and the Earthrise photograph inspire or inform the decisions you made in taking your photograph?
    • What is unique about your home and where you live? What would you like your place in the world to be remembered for?
  7. Students write a photo caption (2 sentences) which includes the following: the location (city, state, and country) and a description of the place they captured and why it is important to them.

Showcase and Publish Student Work

Encourage students to voice their power of perspective by showcasing their artwork with others. Share students’ work with classmates, family members, and communities in a variety of ways to promote thoughtful dialogue. Create a gallery walk or virtual presentation in your classroom or school to encourage students to engage in meaningful conversations.

Students can submit their photograph or illustration for consideration to be published on the Global Oneness Project student gallery! Contact us at for details.

View Student Project

Artificial/Natural, a photo essay from Mary Ellen Newport’s high school ecology class at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

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From artifacts and portraits to landscapes of the living world, explore student photography and original illustrations to foster curiosity and inquiry in the classroom.

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