Annual Giving

Three Reasons Corbett Prep WOWs You on the First Day

Middle School science teacher Will Chorvat talks with students about how to create the "Ultimate Year."

Middle School science teacher Will Chorvat talks with students about how to create the “Ultimate Year.”

Aug. 25, 2015 (TAMPA, Fla.) – The energy was palpable at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS as teachers kicked off a new school year with lessons designed to capture the attention of students of all ages.

On the East and the West Sides of campus, students raced in scavenger hunts, uncovered surprises, released butterflies, planted flowers and conducted experiments in a series of first-day activities known at Corbett Prep as “WOWs.” Fun and engaging, the WOW moments include both beloved traditions as well as new discoveries.

But for all the fun, the WOWs are carefully planned. Teachers develop the activities to set the stage for a successful school year, whether they are establishing expectations or introducing themes. Here are three reasons Corbett Prep makes it a priority to WOW students on the first day of school.

 First day of school traditions build community. Fourth graders pressed their feet into paint and turned the impressions into individual art, while also working as teams to create collages in artistic expressions to showed both “me” and “we.” The projects inspired discussions about how students relate to one another, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Third-grade “Navigators,” meanwhile, flexed their problem-solving muscles by working in small groups in a scavenger hunt and later in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) task to design a miniature canoe without instructions and with limited supplies.

Teamwork played an important part in the fifth grade as well, as the class prepared for their leadership roles on the East Side. Fifth grade students have been split among different classrooms for years, and some are new to Corbett Prep entirely. The teachers plan activities to encourage students to work together and establish a positive classroom environment. Students had to complete four challenges to earn a golden ticket to the fifth-grade classrooms known as the “Penthouse.”

“The first day is building community and making sure everyone feels safe, and the climate is what it needs to be for appropriate learning to take place,” said Teacher and Director of Studies Linda Wenzel.

The first day introduces important concepts. WOWs make a splash and provide a great way for classes to jump into specific lessons or spark discussion on themes that will carry throughout the months ahead. These first day of school traditions build the foundation for growing Emotional Intelligence, linked to a lifetime of success.

Teachers in the first and second grade “Mighty Monkeys” created a rocketry unit that introduced students to engineering concepts and Newton’s laws during the first week of school, having them experiment with actions and reactions before culminating in a model rocket launch. Before the rockets blasted skyward, each student reflected on his or her personal missions. They wrote their missions down and tucked them into the rocket before teachers launched them.

In Middle School, students began conversations about one of their summer reading books, The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall. Teachers talked with students about the gifts teachers would provide — gifts of communication, innovation, culture and more — and students brainstormed in their advisory groups ways they could make 2015-16 their “ultimate year.” Physical challenges of a climbing wall and slide gave students an active way to symbolize the effort required to meet their goals, and multicolored bracelets the students received would remind them every day of what they wanted to accomplish.

The youngest classrooms used their activities to talk about growth and transitions, major themes for their year. The PreK3 “Flower Patch” planted flowers and talked about how plants grow and the care they need to thrive. PreK4 “Beach Buddies” learned about hermit crabs and what happens when they outgrow their shells, prompting the students to think about where they have been and where they are going.

First day of school traditions

First and second graders in the “Brilliant Bugs” whispered wishes to butterflies and released them.

The first day sets the tone for the school year. Teachers want to establish classrooms of dignity and respect, and several classes developed unique ways to convey that message to students. Kindergartners learn what it takes to be “bucket fillers” and fill “attitude buckets” with positive actions. It is an entry point for further discussions about attitudes and the International Baccalaureate learner profiles, incorporating an enthusiastic relay as students raced to fill actual buckets with water.

Teachers treated third and fourth grade multi-age “All Stars” to popcorn boxes filled with goodies to inspire students to have a “picture perfect year” and think about the steps they could take to make that happen. Together, they read Stephie McCumbee’s The Garden in My Mind, a story of how people grow by making positive choices, and they discussed how they could “grow their own gardens.”

In the first and second grade multi-age “Cool Cats,” teachers focused on building friendships and caring. They read a book to students about a cat and fish who wanted to be friends, despite obvious differences, and they surprised each student with his or her own betta fish. Students brainstormed friendship qualities they wanted to have in a friend, or in their fish.

The multi-age first and second grade “Brilliant Bug” class based its first day around wishes, discussing different beliefs about wishes and how wishes can help students become their best selves. Near the end of the day, pairs of first and second graders walked outside together, carrying a paper packet with a live butterfly inside. Each student whispered a wish to the butterfly and opened the packet to release a butterfly that carried the wish to the sky.

All of Corbett Prep’s first day of school traditions reflect the creativity of teachers and the many ways they seek to engage students and inspire a love of learning to last throughout the year and beyond.


Founded in 1968, Corbett Preparatory School of IDS (formerly Independent Day School - Corbett Campus) is a fully accredited, nonsectarian private school located in Tampa’s Carrollwood neighborhood. The school serves over 500 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and offers the International Baccalaureate program of study for all students. Teachers are endorsed in gifted education through a master’s level grant with the University of South Florida College of Education. Corbett Prep balances a dynamic, nurturing and safe learning environment with high standards and high expectations to develop a positive approach to life and learning. Corbett Prep has become recognized as an exemplary school with over 7,000 visitors observing and learning from Corbett Prep teachers. For more information, visit or contact the Admissions Office at (813) 961-3087.