ZEPHYRHILLS — They could have made a simple announcement, had some cake and be done with it.
But rather than vainly pretending their school had turned 29 again, folks at Woodland Elementary embraced its 30th birthday on Tuesday (the 30th day of classes) with a celebration of all things 30.
Kids brought 30 pennies each, and 30 cans of food per classroom, to donate to needy families. They made a giant 30 on the nearby high school football field. They wrote 30-word essays.
"I didn't want it to be just a fun day," principal Kimberly Poe explained (though there really was cake). "We could tie in academics with a number. … We're recognizing a huge accomplishment and with 30 you can do so much."
The enthusiasm among students shone through.
"I'm just so excited I just can't explain it," said fifth-grader Desiree McDaniel, 10, who got to announce the school's birthday during the morning news report.
Fifth-grader Elizabeth Lloyd, also 10, deemed it "cool" to take pride in her school.
"It's important to celebrate our school and how long it's been around," Elizabeth said. "I think I will choose my own children to go here. That way I can tell them how great it is."
Second-grade teacher Kathy Doss, one of just two staff members remaining from the school's first day — the other is cafeteria manager Shirley Peavey — spent the first part of the morning reviewing 30s with her students.
"Before I left to be a celebrity on the news, I gave you a special challenge," said Doss, who earlier had received special recognition on the morning announcements. "I brought in 30 pennies. How much is that worth?"
"30 cents," Mason Lamonte responded.
"All right!" Doss exclaimed. "This is more challenging. 30 dimes?"
The students debated. One said $3. Another said 60 cents. Counting by tens, they eventually agreed with the first response. Then came the biggest challenge.
"I brought in 30 quarters," Doss told the class. "If four quarters makes $1, how much is 30 quarters?"
She gave the class the rest of the day to figure it out. Then they moved on to find 30 words they felt best described their school.
Using the letters that spell out Woodland, the kids came up with "wonderful" and "awesome" and "lovely." They got silly, using "ooh, la, la, Woodland is great" when they couldn't come up with an "O" word.
When 10:30 rolled around, Doss stopped the exercise so the second-graders graders could, well, exercise. Thirty jumping jacks.
"To be perfectly honest with you, it doesn't feel like 30 years," said Doss, who jumped 30 jacks herself. "It's flown by. … This school is a wonderful place to teach."
Pretty much everyone got in on the act.
The pre-K kids performed songs in the hallway. Media specialist Teresa Partain sat in the library window reading children's books (you'll never guess how many).
"This is my David Blaine stunt," Partain said as she read Swift by Robert J. Blake, a cardboard beside her with the number 4 indicating how far she had gotten. "It's to promote reading and to celebrate our 30th birthday."
In tight-knit Zephyrhills, Woodland plays an important role, said Poe, who grew up nearby and completed a teaching internship here while in college. She expected the party to go on all year.
Next up, she said, some sort of community activity involving past employees and alumni. On the 30th week of classes, no doubt.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.