Brownstown seniors return to elementary to open fifth grade time capsules

BROWNSTOWN — Pictures, ribbons, newspapers and notes to each other may have been expected.

But a science book, Orange Leaf spoons, a used plastic cup and an empty Skittles wrapper? Those came as a surprise.

On May 25, members of the Brownstown Central High School Class of 2022 returned to Brownstown Elementary School to open time capsules they created seven years ago as fifth-graders in Becky Baker’s class.

After enjoying doughnuts and milk while watching a slideshow of pictures from their final year of elementary, each of the students received a manila envelope that served as their time capsule.

On the outside, each envelope had been signed by the 31 members of Baker’s class. Inside, they found a letter they wrote to their senior self, an autobiography, a career plan, artwork, essays and more.

At the elementary, the class members also could take a look at the large blanket they made featuring a Jackson County Fair theme and individual drawings of things found during the county’s largest event.

“This was a really fun class. I loved these kids. I love them all. Everybody has got a soft place in my heart. We had a lot of fun that year,” Baker said.

“It’s just a way that I can help them to develop relationships and let them know that I do care about them always,” she said of inviting them back to the elementary.

Baker retired in 2019 after 43 years of teaching. She taught third grade from 1976 to 1999 before finishing out with fifth grade. That’s when she started the time capsule project.

The first year, the fifth grade class, which included her daughter, decorated and filled pizza boxes. From the second year on, she switched to manila envelopes and stored them upstairs in the music room.

In 2007, the first class returned when they were seniors.

Morgan Branaman, a member of the BCHS Class of 2022, said she remembers doing the project in Baker’s class, but she was shocked to see everything in her envelope.

“The letter to my future self I thought was interesting to see because it has changed so much since then,” she said, noting she went from wanting to own a day care to now heading to Purdue University to study business.

Classmate Chloe Covert said she was surprised to find letters from her parents in her time capsule.

“I didn’t know those were going to be in there, but they were special to open,” she said. “I remember putting some stuff in it, but there was a lot of stuff in there that I don’t remember putting in there.”

Brandon Hamm and Cassius Sumpter discovered they put the bare minimum in their envelopes.

“Most of what was written down were rivalries I had with people that I completely forgot about,” Hamm said, adding for the most part, those have been resolved. “It was on and off, especially with Aidan Peters, until like freshman year.”

Sumpter wondered why he put a used plastic cup, an empty Skittles wrapper and some of his homework in his envelope. He noticed his homework grades were better in fifth grade than high school.

Classmate Hannah Hackman laughed when she found several love letters in her time capsule.

“It’s fun looking back at the fifth grade relationships you had,” she said. “They were so important then, but now, we’re all still really good friends.”

The seniors agreed returning to the elementary school brought back good memories.

“I’m glad that we did it. It’s so memorable,” Branaman said. “I think any class like this should do something like that where you can come back and look back. … It was special to be back together again.”

Covert said it was special and sentimental.

“Our class has always stayed really close, and I think that has to do a lot with the teachers that we had,” she said. “We had Beth Shelton in third grade and Amy Hartley in fourth grade and Mrs. Baker in fifth grade, and I think we’ve stayed really close with each other, even over the years.”

Hamm agreed it was special.

“It was a little something we’re not going to have again,” he said. “It was a nice little look-back.”

Sumpter said it was great being back together again because he forgot some of the people were in his class in fifth grade.

“Just being able to see everybody again, it’s pretty nostalgic in a way,” he said. “It definitely was just great to see everybody and experience everybody.”

When the class moved on to middle school, Hackman said they stayed together. But in high school, they had different classes and different friends.

“The fact that everybody came back, it felt like we were still in fifth grade,” she said. “I feel like I’m still 10 years old.”

One of the class members, Kameryn Reed, moved to California at one point and then came back, and two others, Eliza Cash and Maren McClure, chose to attend high school in Seymour.

“It was great to see everyone,” McClure said. “I haven’t seen a lot of these people since fifth grade, and now, I’m about to go out to lunch with a couple of friends that I had. I’m very grateful that I was able to come today.”

The seniors also expressed their appreciation to Baker.

“I really liked the stitching project,” Branaman said of the class making the blanket. “Just the thought that she put into everything, she made us these huge scrapbooks that we got to take with us at the end of our fifth grade year, and I still go back and look at it. It’s really cool. She puts so much effort for us trying to remember things that in the future we can look back on.”

Covert said Baker was always really energetic and cared a lot about her students as people and prepared them for the future.

“I don’t remember the academic part, like science tests, from fifth grade, but this is something special that we’ll get to keep forever,” she said of the time capsules. “It was cool to get back together because you just forget we were so close because we were together for so long.”

Sumpter said Baker made the class feel like it was a big family.

“She just made it a very good atmosphere for all of us,” he said. “She didn’t have to do all of these time capsules and all of this stuff, so I just think the fact that she’s willing to do that for all of us, bring us back and give us doughnuts, it really shows how caring of a person she is.”

Baker made Hamm feel special, too.

“She didn’t just take us as the whole class overall. Everyone was an individual, and she would do things for those individuals to make you feel just real special,” he said. “It warmed my little heart. It’s doing it again now. I feel like it’s probably just as special for her as it is for us coming back and she’s seeing she did a good job.”

Along with the time capsules, the students were given library cards and lunch sticks Baker had held onto for the past seven years.

“It will be something that we’ll pull out and we’ll show our kids when they are in fifth grade and be like, ‘This is what my fifth grade was like,’” Branaman said.

“I think seeing how everyone came here, it makes me feel hopeful that when we have class reunions and stuff, people will come to those,” Covert said.

On behalf of the class, Covert thanked Baker for inviting them back to the elementary.

“After she retired, she didn’t have to come back and do this,” Covert said. “She got a lot of things out, like our library cards and our Popsicle sticks. She kept a lot of stuff that she didn’t have to keep, and she got us all back together, so I think from all of us, we want to say ‘Thank you.’”