Elementary school students opening a time capsule

How to Make a Class Time Capsule

May 8, 2024 • By Debbie Bagley

As the school year winds down, many teachers search for something meaningful to celebrate the close connections the class has made throughout the year. 

Creating a class time capsule could be just the thing!

Set up the Purpose of the Class Time Capsule

At the beginning of the school year, I talk with my students about what we want our class environment to look, feel, and be like. We discuss what will create a safe and happy environment for everyone in our class family. Our discussion includes ways to work respectfully together and make kind, lasting connections. 

This is important because, when I introduce the idea of the class time capsule, I explain that we will do it at the end of the year to celebrate our class family and all the memories we make throughout the school year. I share past student reactions and celebrations so they see this as something to look forward to and work toward.

 We talk about how we will choose to create special moments in our class that we will want to remember forever. We want this to be the best year ever! 

Setting up this positive environment from the beginning helps us focus on keeping things upbeat and collaborative. It helps remind us that we are a class family who helps each other and tries to make each day happy and productive.

Teacher sitting on desk with students laughing

Create your Class Time Capsule

Time capsules require little effort and are a unique and effective way to store memories to look back on. Depending on where your time capsule will be kept, you can choose what type of container you put your items in. This could be a plastic bin, a metal box, a cardboard box, or something else. Use what works best for you. If you bury your capsule, it should be waterproof and durable to protect the things inside.

Choose a date to open it and revisit your memories.

What to Put in a Class Time Capsule

A time capsule should include information about the students and events of the year. It can be as simple or as big as you want.

Here are some ideas:

  1. You can make a folder for each child and include a picture of them and their All About Me sheet with information about:
    • Their favorite book, movie, sport, food, and hobby 
    • People who are important to them, like their family members and friends
    • What a typical day looks like for them
  2. You can include photos of the children at the end of the school year, pictures of one of their favorite ‘treasures,’ or even a ribbon measured to their height so they can see their growth when they open their items in the capsule.
  3. You can enclose written reflections from your students about their memories of the school year and their goals and hopes for the future. Some questions they can answer are:
      • What do you like/dislike?
      • What makes you happy? What makes you sad?
      • What is something you look forward to?
      • Who do you like to be with?
      • What are your favorite memories with your friends?
      • What is your favorite memory with your class or teacher?
      • What are your favorite activities?
      • What was your favorite school project or event this year?
      • What did you love learning this year?
      • What do you wish for your future self?

    The more questions they can answer, the better, as revisiting it in the future will be so much fun!

  4. You can include a summary of each month’s activities and favorite memories. If you wish, you can compile these memories together as a class with a group discussion and whole class writing exercise.
  5. If you can, toss in a newspaper from the year!
  6. I always included a note to the class that they could read when we opened the time capsule. I also liked to put a personal letter from me to each student in their folder. If parents would like to write one, you could include that, too.

A huge tip I have is to include lots of pictures! They are primary sources of our time in history and so fun to look back on. You can include normal, daily pictures of the class working and playing together throughout the year. You can also include photos from holidays, field trips, special events and celebrations, and their art and projects. 

Students writing pages to go into their class time capsule

How to Store Your Class Time Capsule

After you put all the artifacts you’ve gathered into your time capsule, seal and label it with your class name, the date it’s sealed, and the date it will be opened. Choose where to store it. Burying it is always a fun idea, but it is often not a possible option, so the teacher can store it or ask a willing, responsible parent to keep it in a safe place. Document where the stored location is so that you can easily find it when it comes time to open it.  

If you teach in a younger grade, you can open the time capsule together in 5th or 6th grade, before they move to their next adventure at middle school or junior high. 

For any grade, it could be amazing to wait and open during senior year of high school. My mother chose to do this with her 1st-grade class. The students planned the time capsule to be opened together during their senior class picnic before graduation. She has fond memories of being invited to celebrate with them 11 years later!

She was so appreciative of the trusted parent who preserved the capsule and the students who invited her to their senior picnic to open it. It was a touching experience to hand out everyone’s pictures, letters, and artifacts. Her students still bring it up when they see her! 

Happy group of students hugging and being friends

It’s worth it!

Students have so much fun creating their class time capsule! They stay so engaged while they work on it and love talking with one another about themselves and their favorite memories. It truly becomes a celebration!

How ever you choose to make your class time capsule, it will be exciting and such a fun activity for the end of the year. Whenever you open it, you could invite parents, have a little program with songs and memories recited by students, and, of course, serve refreshments. 🤗

I promise it is something they will always remember. ❤️