Monday, November 10, 2008

Time In A Box

Years ago, I started a time capsule project with my eighth grade students.
Sometime during their 8th grade year, I would have them write letters to themselves, describing who they were at that point in time. They would also predict what high school would be like, what sports they'd play, people they'd like, etc.
With some classes, we even made a video tape of them interviewing each other.
They were also invited to put anything (no food!) they wanted into the time capsule along with their sealed letters.

Once the stuff was all together, we put it in a box, taped it shut, labeled it, and in my closet it went.
It was not to be opened until May of their senior year just before they graduated.

They always asked ...
"Will you read our stuff?"
No. That's why you are sealing your letters in envelopes.
"What if you die?"
Then just ask my wife for the box when it's time.
"What if we move?"
Then you won't be here when we open it.
"What if you lose the box?"
I won't.

But then ... I did.
I lost the box for the class of 1998 and when May of that year rolled around ... I had to tell them I could not find it.

God, I hate to disappoint kids. I took it harder than they did as they were all caught up in graduation and the end of the trail. For me, it was a stupid, stupid failure.

It bothered me enough, that I quit doing the project with later classes.

And then ... years later, I found the box.
I had broken my storage routine and placed it in a different location from all the other time capsule boxes ... and paid the price.

It's a small community and the 1998 class president just happens to work at the courthouse now, so for several years, I've been reminding her that I have their box and when they have their 10 year reunion, I wanted to make amends and bring it to them.
She was happy to oblige.

The Class of 1998 Ten Year Reunion was last Friday night and I showed up with the box and a video tape. Those 8th graders are all around 28 now and many had children of their own running around the school cafeteria while their parents ate and reminisced.

After dinner, they gathered around the dusty old box, opened it up, and passed around 14 year old letters to themselves.

It was a sweet moment. I stayed for the box opening, but Junior's football game was starting, so I left them to watch their 14 year old video tape on their own. (I had previewed it anyway to make sure it still worked ... it did ... what a hoot!")

When I found the box a few years ago, and the flood of relief finally subsided, I started the project up again.

In my school closet, 3 time capsules sit on a shelf, percolating, curing, and waiting for May of various years to come.

I know what you are thinking ... what if I lose them?

Trust me, I won't.


pablo said...

You just have to be the best teach ever! This is a fantastic thing to do for those kids.

Sandcastle Momma said...

That's a great idea!

It sounds like losing that box wasn't such a bad thing. I'm sure that they appreciate whatever was in the box even more now than they would have when they were 18.

Your students are lucky to have you FC!

threecollie said...

Mr. FC, you are wonderful, no two ways about it!

Dani said...

That is so cool! I bet they loved seeing everything in that box.

Hurricane Teen said...

That's awesome!
I am jealous.

Laura said...

Wow, I can only imagine the relief you felt when you finally found that box!! And how cool for the, adults to now be able to open it on their 10th reunion. What a great idea!

Btw, in the post below, fantastic photo of Junior shooting out of the air to make the catch!

SwampAngel65 said...

I think that it worked out better the way it did...I'm sure it was much more fun for everyone to open their letters at that reunion!

I wish I had had a teacher a cool as you. The kids up there are very lucky to have you :)

TROLL said...

Troll County High did time capsules but for 20 years. And it was the CURRENT crop of kids who opened it. Big fun laughing at the previous generation.

I think that's the more common way to do Time Capsules.

robin andrea said...

What a wonderful story, fc. I can't imagine what I might have written to myself as an 8th grader, but I sure would have loved the opportunity to find out. I think it really did work out well that all this time had passed.

kjpweb said...

How cool is that! And I think it was even more interesting than if it had been opened at the planned time! :)
Cheers, Klaus

kathy a. said...

how wonderful! that had to have been the highlight of the reunion, to not only see their old classmates, but their old selves.

Anonymous said...

The school (and kids) must love you!! I don't remember any cool teachers when I was in school. DId they remember the time capsule? Do you think you'll get any feedback?


Jane said...

What a brilliant idea. I wonder whether their dreams and hopes had come true? I'd love to hear the feedback from them... I wish I'd had a teacher like you! Jane

Wren said...

What a wonderful project. I don't remember anything so interesting when I was in 8th grade, but it's possible I wasn't paying attention.

Ericka said...

very cool! i found an old diary the other day and it was so neat to read what i'd written so many years ago.

Cathy S. said...

I know you stressed over losing that box, but I think the timing was perfect. What a great reminder of who they once were and how far they have come. And at a critical age when are just starting families of their own. Very cool and you are one cool teacher.

Anonymous said...

Did our class do that? I don't remember it... That is pretty cool though. I saw the festivities as I passed the cafeteria Friday night and I wondered what it was all about. Now I know!

- Jonathan

Alan said...

Neat idea. I was class of 98, actually (though I am a ripe old 29 instead of 28 - birthday was 5 days too late to start kindergarten to be in the class of 97...) God only knows what I may have written, but I'm sure it wouldn't have been too fun - I wasn't too fond of school life, though I imagine most kids who grow up wearing glasses would share that sentiment.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

No, you couldn't possibly lose another one. And, come to think of it, you haven't lost ANY! Just misplaced temporarily.

cedrorum said...

Wow, great post and great idea. I wish my high school teachers would have done that.

Floridacracker said...


Thanks to all ... I just don't have time to recreate it.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

All will be well if you post a picture of Bear with an "I'm sorry but I'm soooo cute" look in his eyes.


Sharon said...

That is SO awesome! I would be tickled pink to look through that if I was them. You have the best ideas :)

thingfish23 said...

Do the words Coolest Teacher Ever mean anything to you?

Julie Zickefoose said...

What a lovely thing to do for those students. I'm sure it meant even more to them at 28 than it would have at 18. Very cool. And I wish I'd had a science teacher like you, too. I did have an English teacher like you, and we're still in touch!