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Create a Time Capsule Activity

The records (primary sources) we create today will be clues that will inform future generations as  to how we lived, and what we experienced today.

Research, Current Events, Writing

Elementary, Middle and High School

30-60 minutes

Shoebox, or large jar with lid, or large envelope, or some other suitable container
Newspaper clippings, magazine articles, internet articles, pictures, handbills, formerly favorite objects, items that make you smile, etc.

To collect, evaluate, curate, and preserve material for a “Time Capsule” designed to inform those in the future of the events of today.

Post a picture of your work to social media with the hashtag #fdractivities


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Historic Context

History is learned by examining the evidence that remains from the past. Historians depend on primary sources to gain insight and information about people and events that went before. A primary source is a record that was created by someone with first-hand knowledge or experience of an event. Primary sources can include newspapers, photographs, eyewitness accounts, diary entries, letters, posters, maps, tools, artifacts, and many other items.

Each of these primary sources gives us information about a particular person or event, but the story they tell is never complete. Historians use whatever evidence they can learn from primary sources and then use their understanding of the period, their background knowledge and experience, and their best educated guesses to fill in the gaps.


  1. Select a topic or event that you want to document for future generations.
  2. Collect 8-10 primary sources that tell about the topic or event.
  3. Examine each of the primary sources to determine how well it contributes to telling the story of the topic or event you selected.
  4. From the items you have collected, select just 4 to include in your time capsule.
  5. Write a few paragraphs that will inform people in the future about why you selected these four items to share with them concerning your topic or event.
  6. Select a container and seal the items inside. Indicate a date on the outside when the time capsule will be opened. You can choose six months, a year, five year, 20 years. You may even want to open yourself some day.
  7. Place the container in a safe place.
  8. Consider the questions below in the next section.


  1. Describe three things you learned about your topic or event from the primary sources you collected.
  2. What decisions did you have to make about deciding which four items to include in your time capsule?
  3. What reasons or justifications would you give for including some items while leaving other items out?
  4. Describe in 20 words or less what you hope the person who opens your time capsule will learn from what you have included. 

A Step Beyond:

Imagine you have discovered a time capsule from some other time...

  1. What time period would it be?
  2. What person or event would the time capsule be about?
  3. What types of things would you expect to find inside?
  4. What types of things do you think you would learn?