KAYSVILLE -- With an astronaut, space shuttles and views of the solar system, back-to-school night at Davis School District's newest elementary school could better be described as a launch party.
Endeavour Elementary School -- named for the space shuttle -- has an astronomy theme.
"We have an emphasis on technology, science and space," said principal Beth Johnston.
This theme was evident as students and their parents walked through the doors for the first time Thursday night.
"Even if they are staring at their feet, the floor has stars and moons," said parent Alena Andreasen.
"Looking up, they see the galaxy pictures. You can't help but be inspired by that. It's incredible. If anything, they will be inspired both intellectually and creatively just by being in the building."
The most notable features of the school's theme are the glazed rendering of the Eagle Nebula in the large windows of the multipurpose room and the planetarium-quality solar system THAT fills the three-story ceiling of the media room.
"I like the planets. They are really awesome," said sixth-grader Linsay DiReda.
"I think it will help kids learn about space because, when they are in the library, it's kind of like they are in space. They just have to look up to see all the planets."
Small touches throughout the building further the celestial feel of the school. Quotes from Buzz Aldrin, Stephen Hawking and other space explorers are etched on the glass surrounding the media center.
Each of the three classroom areas are named after galaxies. Images from the Hubble Telescope can be seen throughout the building.
"It's exciting to see how the work of all the people from the Hubble Mission is used in this way to help people learn," said Zolt Levay, from the Hubble Telescope Science Institute. He was one of the guest speakers at the grand opening.
Levay explained how the space shuttle Endeavour's first service mission was to repair the mirror on the telescope so it could capture the images that adorn the schools walls.
Also speaking at the event was Scott J. "Doc" Horowitz, an astronaut on four space shuttle missions. Horowitz talked about how his sixth-grade teacher helped to inspire him to become an astronaut.
"He had written in my (year) book after we had watched men land on the moon for the first time that some day I might become an astronaut," Horowitz said.
"Who would have guessed that a sixth-grade teacher would have motivated somebody to one day become an astronaut? To the teachers and faculty, you don't know exactly where your energies are going to lead all of these students tomorrow, because they are our future. It all starts here."
The school also received a replica of the Endeavour Shuttle and an official flag donated by ATK Aerospace Systems.
The theme of the school goes beyond the aesthetics, said Johnston.
"I have hired teachers specifically with technology and fine teaching skills, who are excited about teaching science," she said.
Also bringing more technology to the schools is the way curriculum will be delivered.
Students in the third through sixth grades will each use notebook computers instead of textbooks.
"I like that we have computers," said fifth-grader Porter Sweat. "It's cool. It's a good idea. We will have more fun learning."
Johnston said the school will still have many books to read but the computers enhance the students' education.
"These kids come hard-wired. They know how (to use computers) from kindergarten," she said.
School officials boasted many times during the event how they had saved money on the school.
"This building was built one and half million dollars cheaper than the last one we built," said Bryan Bowles, district superintendent.
The district chose cost-saving measures such as polished concrete on the floors instead of tile and blocks instead of brick.
"The fun thing is the building itself becomes a learning tool," Bowles said. "Kids are surrounded by opportunities to think about astronomy and space and the potential of math, science and engineering."
More than 520 students will take small steps into the district's 59th elementary school on Monday, but giant leaps into their education.
"My hope is that we are going to be like the Endeavour Shuttle," Johnston said.
"We will be a research vessel. We are going to have a wonderful learning environment where respect is prevalent throughout the school and we achieve academically as well."