If I Could Turn Back Time: End of Year Time Capsule Activity

Image Credit Amanda Perez

I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m fairly certain it is not a train.  

As we are coming to the end of one of the longest school-years ever, and as life is beginning to look marginally more normal, we are eager to truly return to normal. Our students are anxious to turn off their chromebooks and throw away their masks, and frankly so are we. As we close the e-books and sign off of our Zoom meetings, it is a good time to reflect.  

How has your world changed? How are you a different person in May of 2021 than you were in March of 2020? How would your students answer that same question? 

hands with latex gloves holding a globe with a face mask
Photo by Anna Shivets on Pexels.com

I don’t know about you, but on top of all of these weird emotions, my teacher brain is shutting down after a year and a half of working on full speed. Here is an end of the year that I developed (inspired by one of my teaching buddies who helped me brainstorm last week). I hope it helps you and your students reflect. 

First, as a short writing activity, I had my students use the website futureme.org to send a letter to themselves in the future. I wrote one too. I did not require my students submit the actual letter to me, but just asked that the screenshot of their confirmation e-mail to ensure that they completed it. Additionally, I recommend that students use a personal e-mail, rather than a school e-mail so that they will have access to it after they graduate or if they changed schools. Below are my directions:  

Step 1: Letter to the Future 

Write a letter to yourself using the website futureme.org https://www.futureme.org/letters/new . Make sure to use a personal e-mail, rather than your school e-mail address to ensure that you will receive the e-mail later. I suggest that you choose to receive the letter in 5 years, or to receive it in May of the year you graduate.  

Ideas on What to Write:  

  • Goals for the rest of high school/plans after graduation. 
  • What is going on in your life right now.  
  • Something you are proud of that has happened recently. 
  • Something you fear happening or that has happened recently. 
  • What is going on in the world right now and what you think about it. 
  • Your current interests or favorite things.  
  • Read these public letters to get some ideas (don’t worry, yours will not be public unless you choose to make it so when you submit it). 

Step 2: Covid Time Capsule 

I gave my students the option to create a physical or a virtual time capsule to remember this time. I’ve also been asking “What would you put in a pandemic time capsule” while interviewing students for a scholarship.  The reflection and insight that they have given me has been powerful. Although a time capsule assignment could be a great way to end any year, it feels especially meaningful considering the covid-world we are living through. In short, the students choose 5 significant items, create a container, and write about the items. My directions for the assignment are posted below: 

It has certainly been an unusual year and a half.  Not only have you made it through your sophomore year, but you’ve lived through a pandemic. You’re probably tired of hearing this, but you are living through history right now. Though there are probably a lot of things you want to leave behind you after this year, I want you to consider what you will remember.  

Museums have already started considering what we will save to remember this time. Read this article about what museums are already thinking about to remember this time. 

Part 1: Photo collage (This will count as the first of your 5 items). 

Look through the pictures on your phone between March 13 2020 and now. Select 6-10 pictures that describe your year. They can be personal pictures, or ones that give a sense of the weird world we have lived in for the past year. 

Part 2: Design a unique container for your time capsule.  

There should be a symbolic purpose behind its design. This could be as simple as decorating a box, or as complex as finding/creating a unique container that shows something about you, or about your year. 

Part 3: Select items 

Select 4 more items that best describe the last year/year and half of your life. The items can relate to personal falls and triumphs, or to global events.  

***If you cannot physically place the item in the time capsule because of its size, or because you will need it, you may take a photo of it.  

Step 4: Write about the items.  

You must write a description of at least 200 words for EACH ITEM. Explain what the item is and why you chose it. Explain how it exemplifies your experience. 

I hope that you can use this time to reflect along with your students. Teacher, we are almost there. May you find rest in the days ahead as we look to a future better than the year we leave behind. 

Jeni Kisner is the secretary of WVCTE and was previously a bimonthly blogger on the best practices blog. Jeni teaches10 Honors English, and English 10 at Hedgesville High School in Berkeley County. This is her 9th year of teaching, and her first year as a Mom. Jeni enjoys reading and listening to books, crafting, and spending time with her husband, daughter, and dog. She has an unhealthy obsession with T-rexes, unicorns, and buying far too many books.

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