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GROTON — The Biggest Book in the World on World Peace just got a little bigger.

The book, a record-setting 12 feet high by 10 feet wide, consisting of 400 pages and clocking in at almost 2,000 pounds, is the brain-child of students at Groton-Dunstable’s Florence Roche Middle School. They have been working on the project for years.

For much of that time, students have been canvassing the world stage for celebrities and political figures to contribute messages of hope and encouragement to be included in the book. Personalities including the Dalai Lama, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Sens. John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, the King of Belgium, the rock group Green Day, Princes William and Harry and veterans from all of America’s wars have responded.

Now, the students’ message is set to achieve heights never dreamed of when the project first began. Early next year, one of their custom “Biggest Book” T-shirts is scheduled to be boosted into orbit.

According to Betsy Sawyer, the teacher who has guided the students through the project, the idea of carrying the students’ message of peace into space came from local parent Liz Acaba, whose brother-in-law, Joseph Acaba, is one of the astronauts scheduled to go into space on Feb. 12.

“But each astronaut is allowed to bring some personal, unofficial item with them into space and Joe wanted to do something for his two nephews, Josh and Lucas Acaba, who attend the middle school here in Groton,” Sawyer said. He asked them about it and they wanted the item to be something that would represent their school.

“Middle School Principal Steve Silverman was told about the offer, Sawyer said. “So Steve brought the request to a faculty meeting and explained what the opportunity was and asked for suggestions.”

But choosing what to take into space was not as easy as it sounds. According to Sawyer, NASA had a number of restrictions on what could be sent into orbit, including the fact that it had to be “bendable,” it had to have certain dimensions and it could not be made of wood or metal.

“Nicki Rockwell, who had spearheaded the million-penny project, was at the meeting and raised her hand to suggest sending up a Big Book for Peace Club T-shirt,” Sawyer related. “She said it would be a way to reach as far as we can for peace. By that time, most of the school was already involved in the project.”

The principal brought the idea back to Liz. After she agreed to it, she sent the T-shirt to NASA for approval. “And only last week, we were informed that it had been approved!” Sawyer reported.

The idea of creating the Biggest Book in the World on World Peace originally came from the students themselves. After checking with the Guinness Book of World Records, they decided that breaking the record for the world’s biggest book was a real possibility.

Once committed to the big book, a subject needed to be chosen. Although many were considered, none proved of sufficient weight to be included in a book intended to shatter a world record. Then, one day, Sawyer returned from a concert by 1960s Vietnam War protester Jimmy Cliff at which the musician urged fans to ask themselves what they have done for peace lately.

Sawyer took Cliff’s message to heart and brought it back to her students, asking them about their hopes and dreams. One thing led to another until the students chose to concentrate on world peace as the book project.

But Cliff’s sentiments were never far from students’ minds — a phrase from one of the performer’s songs ended up on the blue denim T-shirt that students have been selling to raise money for the book project.

“The Peace Club kids designed the T-shirt themselves,” Sawyer said. “It sports a big globe on the back with a peace symbol on it and is surrounded by children holding hands. On the front, it has song lyrics by Jimmy Cliff that read: “Wonderful world, beautiful people.”

A vote was taken and it was unanimous; everybody wanted a T-shirt to go into space.

“After we get the T-shirt back from space we’ll display it at the Middle School, where we already have an entire room dedicated to peace,” Sawyer said. “We call it the Department of Peace, where we have lots of other gifts given to us from people all around world” including peace flags and pennants, books by Nobel Peace Prize winners and a world map 20 feet wide.

The T-shirt taken into space will be encased in a box with the signatures of all of the mission astronauts as well as an official document that says it has been into space, Sawyer said.

Acaba will be one of six astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery (STS-119) when it leaves Earth on Feb. 12 to deliver a pair of solar arrays to the International Space Station.

“The excitement of having the T-shirt brought into space has inspired the kids to research the upcoming mission as well as the rest of the space program,” Sawyer said.

The shirts are being printed gratis by Greco Graphics and can be purchased for $10 at the students’ Web site,

“We hope that this event will bring attention to the importance of the space program, but also to reaching out as far as we can for peace,” Sawyer said.