Digging for Time

story by Vikki Marmaras , illustrated by Sylvia Morris

Learning intention

I am learning to create and follow instructions by planning and testing with others, so that I can use communication to problem-solve.


Success criteria

  • I can identify the challenges faced by the characters in the text as well as the way they found solutions
  • I can apply these strategies to creating my own instructions and following those created by others
  • I can use the time capsule in the text as inspiration for applying my own ideas


After reading the story, discuss the time capsules in the story. Ask students to recall what was buried in each. Answers for Dad’s time capsule should include:

  • A comic
  • Lollies
  • A basketball card
  • An old watch from his own dad

Answers for the daughter’s time capsule should include:

  • A drawing of her house
  • A copy of her School Magazine
  • A toy shark
  • A soccer medal
  • A photo of her and her dad
  • A handful of grass

Ask students to think about what they would put in their own time capsule and where they would bury it if they were a character in their own story about digging up time. Discuss possibilities such as their backyard, a local park, or in the bush.

Put students into pairs and have them choose an item from the classroom. Take them outside and have them bring their chosen item as well as a book and pencil for each pair. Ensure all students are aware of which direction north, south, east and west are from where they are standing by giving them reference points (e.g., the school office is to the north, the beach is to the east). Ask them to spread out into different areas of the playground. Each pair should choose a place to hide their item – it doesn’t need to be buried, but it should be in a spot that is not immediately visible, such as in a garden, behind a tree or under a bench seat.

Each pair should then choose a starting point and work together to create instructions to locate the item. Remind students that in the story, the characters faced a problem in locating Dad’s time capsule because he had grown so much since he buried it, meaning his footsteps were much longer. Inform students that they should ensure they are counting steps at their normal walking gait and not using longer strides. Point out that this may still vary between students and the number of steps should be considered a close approximation. Once everyone has completed their instructions, have pairs of students swap their instructions with another pair. They should then follow the instructions and write down the item they located.

Upon returning to the classroom, discuss the degrees of success they had with this activity and if they encountered any challenges. Ask how they would ensure that their instructions could be followed if they were to bury a real time capsule. Answers may include:

  • Make it close to a landmark
  • Keep the instructions simple
  • Follow the instructions a couple of times to make sure they are written correctly
  • Have someone check them with you

Refer back to the beginning of the lesson and ask students if they have considered what they would put in their own time capsule. On a piece of paper or a blank page of their book, have them each draw and label the items that would choose to put into their time capsules. If time allows, choose students to present their time capsule drawings to the class and have them explain the reasons for their choices.