I try to engage the class during the first day of school by doing the time capsule activity, or in this case a time “box” since boxes are easier to find than plastic capsules which are available only in the market (and will cost you $$$).


time capsules

First, I make sure that students understand what a time capsule means by showing some videos on YouTube about a group of people who go back to their high school campus to dig up something from the past such as one from Wellesley High School, or in my more mature classes I show a clip from a Korean romantic movie My Sassy Girl just to add variety and something to discuss on.

For some giggles, I read them a part of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw, where Greg Heffley had the idea to make a time capsule. He thought whoever found it would travel back in time and reward him making him rich. Of course that didn’t happen and he ended up digging it back up to get some of the stuff he and his friend had buried.

After that, I tell them that they are going to make their own time capsule which of course will not be buried for 10 or 20 years but something that they will open up again in 10 months or less. And in this activity, we don’t do any burying at all. It is something for display!

The Task

So what do we put inside the capsule? This is the part where I say it depends on the teacher and the students.

I teach ESL to Vietnamese middle school students so I try to make it as simple as possible – one that they can easily understand and do (I do this activity at the beginning of the year so there still might be some language gaps). I let them answer a set of questions such as their favorite stuff (movies, songs etc) and some questions about their interests and plans in the future. Just to add some fun and accuracy, I bring my students to the nurse’s station to measure their height and weight! This is a good way to “foreshadow” to the students that they will not just be sitting idly in my class!

You can use this Time Capsule Handout for lower grade level. For my higher level classes, I try to incorporate social media-style templates such as Instagram and Facebook where they can draw and add photos and other details.

After which they put their answers inside the time capsule and we seal it using a tape. Lastly, I challenge my students to decorate the boxes, and bring them back to class for display.

By the end of school year, students will answer the same set of questions and compare them with the one inside the time capsule. It is amazing how things change in less than a year specially with their height, weight or even penmanship. It is always a delight for me to see their varied reactions.


You can use pringles can and include first day photo, sample of their best handwriting and have them trace their hand and foot.

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time capsule activity

What variations of time capsule activity can you think of? Let’s hear them in the comments!

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