Create Primary Source Time Capsules to Encourage Critical Thinking

Creating time capsules are a great way to encourage students to think critically about the past and what changes they would like to see in the future. Using primary sources as items in the time capsule ensures that students build historical thinking skills as well.

Instructions –

Have students create a time capsule of the last 100 years using only primary sources. Students should pick at least 5 primary sources to represent a specific time period and be encouraged to research the sources on their own, for example a historical photograph, newspaper article, or poem. For each source, students will write 2-3 sentences to explain the significance of the source for understanding the time period chosen. At the end of this activity, students will have created 10-15 sentences reflecting on history.

To level this activity for elementary students, instead of doing a time capsule for the last 100 years, have students focus on only the last year by gathering primary sources from their own lives. Each primary source they chose will represent a moment in their life in the past year, like a family picture or favorite toy.

A great place to start looking for primary sources is the Library of Congress’ Primary Source Sets, Themed Resources, and Digital Collections.


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