Students bury time capsules for lesson about primary sources

When a lesson learned in class is transformed to a hands-on experience, it is often considered the best of both worlds. The students in grade 5 at Mathewson Elementary were able to do just that recently when their teachers gave them the opportunity to participate in a project connected to a lesson on evaluating the quality of primary sources.

Teacher Marc LaPierre had been thinking about putting together a project that demonstrated for his students the differences between secondary source versus primary source materials.

“In today’s world of instant information, it is vital for all of us to consider the quality of the source of the information we get – and whether that information is valid or not. I wanted to find a way to show students the differences in a way that was ‘up close and personal’ – and that’s where it all started,” he commented.

He then met with his fellow fifth grade teachers, Monica Markovics and Denise DiFederico and, together, they developed the idea of combining ‘primary source’ student writings with a time capsule project.

The teachers first had students write their own primary source material by writing about themselves and documenting, at the ripe old age of 10, what life is like for them today. Students included information about their favorite activities, favorite music groups, and snippets about their families and friends. They were also asked to include a statement reflecting what they thought the future might look like. Each student then was asked to bring in three items that represented themselves. Examples of items that were brought in included pennies (with the date of their year of birth), game pieces, hair bands, and other small items.

From there, the teachers helped the students package their materials and placed them in the class containers. The containers will be opened in 2025, ten years from now. The students will be in their early 20s by then.

To formally mark the spot where the time capsules have been buried, the students made special commemorative bricks – one for each of the three classrooms.

Principal Melissa Currier was delighted with the project and said it was a monumental one – especially this year.  “We were excited to find a way to make our mark on our school’s history. Becoming a K-5 elementary school this year made this event very meaningful and purposeful for our students. We look forward to seeing what life was like – as described by ourselves -- when we come back to open the capsules 10 years from now.”

LaPierre added, “The purpose and goal behind the project was to create an authentic experience so the children could get a real appreciation for what a primary source is all about. They wrote stories about what their life is like in Milford as well as what they did in the summer.”