American Time Capsule

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11374

Do you realize, some day, someone will dig up your iPad and put it in an antique shop? Time capsules tell a lot about history and culture. Choose items from today to put into your own time capsule!


History, People and Their Environment

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Human beings want to be remembered beyond their limited time on this earth. Great leaders of the past have always made monuments to themselves to last for centuries. The pharaohs of Egypt gathered together abundant wealth and countless symbolic items to mark their journey beyond. Even ordinary people like to leave their mark in one way or another.

  • What are some ways people create a lasting memory of their life and times?

Let's take a look at one interesting way people have found to share their lives with the people of the future!

About a hundred years ago, the idea of creating time capsules really took off.

A time capsule is a durable, yet relatively small, storage unit that contains the items that represent a certain time and place. It is meant to be opened decades or even centuries later by people who are living in a new and unfamiliar world. Have you heard of time capsules before, or perhaps even helped create one?

Take a look at this article by Evan Andrews from A & E Network LLC's History Channel Online, America's Oldest Known Time Capsule Was Made by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. Then reflect upon the following questions and discuss with a parent or teacher:

  • Which of the time capsules is the best? What makes you think so?
  • What kinds of items did the time capsule creators include?
  • How did those items represent their times?

Time capsules often contain fascinating collections of artifacts. Artifacts can mean little, however, without context. When we put things in context, we are re-imagining the world in which certain people, objects, or events occur.

Read the article, Establishing a Broader Context, courtesy of the History Department at Queens College. As you read, think about the following questions and make notes:

  • What is the definition of "historical context?"
  • How does an historian establish historical context?
  • Locate at least two or three other sources on the topic of historical context using your own research, and add any new information or ideas to your notes.

If you were to write a history on a chosen topic, what elements would you include to create the context for your topic? Make a list of at least five or six elements that can be provided to show historical context based on your readings or your own ideas.

Share your list with a parent or teacher. Reflect on the following questions and discuss:

  • Can you think of any other elements that would help create context for historical events or artifacts?
  • What makes context so important to understanding the past?

Historical people, objects, and events do not occur in isolation. Rather, they are part of a vast web of connections with other people, objects, and events. One of the jobs of the historian is to complete that web as much as possible so the real meaning and significance of history becomes more clear.

In the Got It? section, you will gather some of the clues to understand the contexts of contemporary America, the America of the past 30 years.

Elephango's Philosophy

We help prepare learners for a future that cannot yet be defined. They must be ready for change, willing to learn and able to think critically. Elephango is designed to create lifelong learners who are ready for that rapidly changing future.