CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ More than 50,000 children and teachers in Brevard County, home of the Kennedy Space Center, paid tribute to the crew of space shuttle Challenger on Monday by raising replicas of a flag Christa McAuliffe carried on the flight.

The red, white and blue Flag of Learning and Liberty, a symbol of education, was raised simultaneously at each of the county's 67 public schools at 10 a.m. EST.

The cermony, in addition to honoring the seven astronauts killed last Jan. 28 when Challenger exploded, was intended to remind people how important education is to the country's freedom and future, said school spokeswoman Chevon Baccus.

''People need to remember that this country is as good as it is because everybody has the opportunity to receive an education,'' she said. ''It was their education that allowed the Challenger crew members to achieve their goals of becoming astronauts.''

McAuliffe, a high school social sciences teacher from Concord, N.H., was flying on the shuttle as NASA's first ''citizen-in-space.'' Millions of pupils on Earth were to have taken part in her lessons from orbit.

Also killed in the accident were commander Dick Scobee, pilot Michael Smith, mission specialists Judy Resnik, Ellison Onizuka and Ronald McNair and payload specialist Greg Jarvis.

Challenger 7 Elementary School in Port St. John, which was under construction at the time of the accident, held its official dedication in connection with Monday's ceremony. Schools named for McAuliffe in Palm Bay and McNair in Cocoa also participated.

The tribute is one of many planned in the Kennedy Space Center area this week to honor the astronauts who perished when Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch.

On Wednesday, space center workers will observe 73 seconds of silence at 11:38 a.m., the time Challenger was launched.