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!

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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 items that represent a certain time and place. It is meant to be opened decades or even centuries later by people living in a new and unfamiliar world.

  • Have you heard of time capsules before, or perhaps even helped create one?

Read America's Oldest Known Time Capsule Was Made by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. Then, reflect upon the following questions.

  • 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 without context. When we put things in context, we are reimagining the world in which certain people, objects, or events occur.

Read about Establishing a Broader Context, and make notes on the following questions.

  • What is the definition of historical context?
  • How does a 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.

After compiling your notes, consider this question.

  • 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.

Then, reflect on the following questions.

  • Can you think of any other elements that would help create the 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 become 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.

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