By Mary Clarkin

The Hutchinson News

PLAINS -- Yes, Virginia, Pluto is a planet.

A "classical" planet and deserving to be classified with the other eight: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune -- and Earth.

That's what fifth-grade students at Plains Elementary School in Meade County's city of Plains, population about 1,130, recently determined.

They were only toddlers when International Astronomical Union members in 2006 voted 237-157 (with 17 abstaining) to define Pluto as merely a dwarf planet, not a classical planet.

"Many of my students said that Pluto was their favorite planet, and they were very disappointed when I told them that many textbooks and astronomers don't recognize Pluto as a planet anymore," said Reid Petty, in his first year teaching social studies and science at Plains Elementary.

Who has a clearer vision of the celestial heavens than a child?

"Many of my students made the point that even if something is small doesn't mean it is something else. One student said a baby is small, but it is still a human. So this student asked why Pluto being small should matter at all and that rather big or small that it should remain a classical planet," Petty said.

In Plains, the students applied a sharp eye to the International Astronomical Union. The organization has over 11,000 members and yet only 411 voted on the Pluto resolution at the general assembly.

Does that seem right? It didn't to the fifth-graders.

They researched. They debated. They voted.

Forty-nine fifth-grade students were at school on the day of the vote. Thirty-five agreed Pluto was a classical planet, and 14 voted that it should remain a dwarf planet as the IAU and many textbooks state.

By any election yardstick -- and Petty is an outgoing member of the Kansas House of Representatives -- Pluto the full-fledged planet won by a landslide.

Not believe that Pluto belongs?

From the ceiling in Petty's classroom hang blow-up versions of the planets. After the vote, one more planet took its place in the firmament.

(c)2014 The Hutchinson News