Digging up memories


Oakwood Middle School, the former GlenOak High School where the time capsules were buried and later discovered. “I remember my students and I would be heading outside with big shovels over our shoulders. The visitors definitely gave us some odd looks,” David Fischer said.

When one leaves GlenOak, most would like their time here to be remembered in some way. Whether it is through pictures in the yearbook or records broken on sports teams, it is always nice to leave a trace of your younger self behind.

For the freshman classes of 1995-1999, they decided to be remembered through a series of time capsules. It was an academic project but students could place their own personal items inside. 

David Fischer, the current superintendent at Sandy Valley Local School, led the project when he taught 9th grade social studies at GlenOak. At the time, 9th graders had classes at Oakwood Middle School.

“We were learning about how to read a map,” Fischer said. “Students would bury their time capsules and then create a map of where it was placed. Other students would then try to follow the map and find their time capsule.” 

Although the project was for educational purposes, students were allowed to make their capsules out of whatever they wanted and placed anything their hearts desired inside. 

Kristin Wellman, the Anatomy & Physiology and Life Science teacher, was the 9th grade physical science teacher during the years and worked alongside Fischer.

The time capsules were part of a community project with English, science, and social studies called the decade project,” Wellman said. “We based the curriculum off of the Billy Joel song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” which referenced our history at the time but made excellent connections to all three subjects.”

At the school that is now Oakwood, students were given parameters as to where they could bury their capsules. Sporting fields and the area around the gazebo was to be avoided, but everywhere else was fair game. 

“I specifically remember one group burying one by the drive in front of the school and another at the end of the property by the gate that separates the school property from an adjacent road,” retired intervention specialist Linda Natale said. 

When the students went to search for another groups’ capsule or even their own, they were unsuccessful. These projects remained buried under Oakwood until now. 

In early September of 2022, current GlenOak horticulture students stumbled across one of the time capsules. The ground in which the new baseball parking lot stands was being excavated at the time causing items underground to be pulled up.

“My students found the plastic bags and thought it was just trash. Once we started examining it closer we noticed that there were some very weathered items inside,” horticulture instructor Tiffany Woods said. “After further observation it looked more and more like a possible time capsule of some kind.”

The capsules were not built to last for this extensive period of time, causing the weathered personal items inside to be severely damaged and unrecognizable. 

The teachers who worked on this project together have all gone their separate ways, career wise, since. The appearance of the capsule was a way for them to reflect on this period of time and connect with one another.

After Fischer left, Matt Whitted took over as the 9th grade history teacher and lead of this project. The two now both work at Sandy Valley where Fischer is superintendent and Whitted is principal.

“When I told him that someone had dug up one of the time capsules, we just looked at each other and laughed,” Fischer said. 

Other teachers on the project used this new information as a way to reconnect with old coworkers. 

“One of the retired teachers reached out to me and told me someone found this one,” Wellman said. “It always brings back great memories.”

The maps that went with the capsules may still be looming somewhere in the building as Fischer left them in his classroom when he left the Plain Local district.

Due to the renovations around Oakwood and the test of time, many of the capsules have likely been lost or destroyed. But the horticulture department has proven that hope for the discovery of the capsules has not been lost.