Hawk Air will take Hygiene students to Pluto

Hygiene Elementary students and members of the community will take a virtual trip to the dwarf planet Pluto on Thursday, an event that will include a "Star Party."

It's all part of the annual Hawk Air project, which in the past has seen students virtually travel to Greece, Brazil, China, Mexico and Tanzania. This is their first trip off of the planet.

Pluto seemed an odd destination when considering the places that students have previously virtually visited, but the recent fly-by has increased interest in the former-planet considerably. As principal Renee Collier said, the questions wasn't "Why study Pluto?" but rather "Why not?"

"We wanted to go above and beyond as we are becoming a STEAM-focused school," said Collier, referring to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. "We had talked about going to Mars, but it just became obvious that we needed to go to Pluto when those images started coming in after the fly-by."

The event runs during school hours Thursday and Friday for the students, and on Thursday evening for the public. On Thursday evening, the Longmont Astronomical Association will host a "Star Party," during which the organization will set up telescopes for public viewing of the night sky.

Sherry Legrand, the school's STEAM coordinator, said that the students started the design work back in October, employing the "design thinking process," which sees the problem broken down into steps: empathizing (understanding the problem with interviews, surveys, etc.); defining the problem; ideating (changing the gathered background information to cope with the conditions on Pluto); prototyping; and then testing.

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A display inside the Pluto government center is seen on Wednesday at Hygiene Elementary School. More photos: TimesCall.com. Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer March 2, 2016