Four 12-year-olds said Wednesday it was only by accident that they discovered a time capsule in the courtyard of Penns Valley Elementary and Intermediate School.
After all, they didn’t have much direction on where to look for it other than it was located in the school’s courtyard, which had been renovated into a garden area and outdoor classroom space.
The sixth-grade students — Scott Hess, Collin Myers, Tucker Treaster and Garrett Wingert — said they were offered the chance late last month to head outside and try to find what the school population thought was a rumored time capsule from the 1998-99 school year.
But it was, in fact, real.
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After first searching the perimeter of the courtyard, the boys headed to the center near a tree.
Garrett said he was the first to hit the box with a shovel. It was buried less than a foot deep.
“I just thought it was a rock or something and left it and started digging somewhere else,” he said.
Scott then hit it with a shovel next and his classmates helped dig it up.
What they found was a container with a plastic bag around it with items including newspapers, pictures and class notes. The Centre Daily Times, dated April 29, 1999, was filled with information on the Columbine High School massacre, which happened April 20 of that year.
The paper also featured a photo in the sports section of a former Penns Valley Area softball player, Kristy Confer, who Principal Danielle Yoder said now has children in the Penns Valley Area School District.
But the boys thought the coolest find was an old photo of what the school used to look like.
It wasn’t until nearly a decade after the time capsule was dated that the school underwent additions and renovations to merge with the Old Gregg School, which closed in Spring Mills.
“It looks so different now,” Tucker said.
The search for the time capsule started in the fall, when Penns Valley Conservation Association Education Coordinator Jim Flanagan heard there might be a time capsule left in the courtyard from 18 years ago. Flanagan often works at the school facilitating environmental education with students, and he alerted administrators about the rumor.
“We tried talking to people who were around back then, and had several different areas to look, but they all fell through,” Yoder said. “We tried in the fall and retried again after the thaw.”
First-grade teacher Cathy Dunkelberger, the then second-grade teacher and the only teacher who was also a part of the time capsule project, was even approached about it, but said she didn’t remember until she saw some of the items.
“I didn’t remember until I got the packet of pictures of my students,” she said. “I remember now we added pictures of the kids and they each wrote a little something — many of them writing about who their best friends in class were.”
It might not be an annual tradition, but Yoder said the school plans to do their own time capsule.