In 1989, Henderson Elementary was different. The school included a sixth grade class, the library was located in the middle of the building instead of the back and all assignments were completed in cursive. Back then, students in Spectra, the school’s gifted program, worked with teacher Jan Pohl [now Walkonis] to create a time capsule to be opened 30 years in the future.
The students placed items into a medium-sized metal trashcan with bubble letters on the side and addressed an envelope to the sixth grade class of 2019. However, in 1993, the school district moved sixth grade to the middle school, so Dr. Amy Howell’s fifth grade Spectra class was allowed to open the letter and capsule earlier this month.
Inside, students found a letter with names and addresses of the former sixth graders, old newspaper clippings and advertisements, pictures of the class and Henderson, homework samples, a VHS tape of the 1989 MTV Music Awards, a Henderson T-shirt and more.
“Most of [the contents] were a surprise because I forgot that we did so much,” Walkonis said. “They came up with so much more than I even thought of. It was like the ball got rolling and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Students used the items to study the differences between major events of 1989 to those of 2019.
“We learned a lot by watching documentaries on the San Francisco earthquake, the soccer stadium stampede, the tragedy at Red Square and the Berlin Wall coming down as the Cold War came to an end,” Howell said. “Many of the students thought it would have been scary to live back then, while others pointed out that there are scary things about the present time as well, and always will be. They learned much more than I expected. I was surprised by their philosophical thinking.”
The current fifth grade class held a reception to display the contents of the time capsule. Students from 1989, now about 40 years old, were invited along with teachers and staff. Current students created digital presentations comparing the 1989 items to their 2019 counterparts. The 2019 students greeted the returning class of 1989 and answered questions as guests walked through the interactive museum.
“It was interesting to see what it was like and to see all their stuff that was cool to them,” fifth grader Abby C. said. “All our new stuff is cool to them, and that’s just like old stuff to us.”
Of seeing her former students, Walkonis said, “I was so excited. I’ve been in contact with them over the last month, planning this. We got a little more than half that came.”