To most elementary students, preparing for the future means having their lunch box at arm's length before the noon bell rings. But students at Linthicum Elementary are planning for the year 2040, when the school's time capsule will be opened.

The colorful "1990 to 2040" banner hanging in the middle of the media center is a reminder to students that their school days will not go unnoticed. A certain excitement fills the air as school media specialist Alex Johnson reviews the collection of items that will be locked away in December for posterity.

Eight-year-old Natasha Walker can't help but wonder what students will be like 50 years from now, when the class photos, videos, newspaper clippings and a small Hacky Sack soccer practice ball will be uncovered.

"I think it's a good idea, because the people who find it will be able to see how we lived in the olden days," Natasha said while fingering the items in the box. "They can see if everything changed or if they want to bring back the good times."

Eleven-year-old Joey McKenny is hoping that future Linthicum students will have been able to save the Chesapeake Bay and become more environmentally conscious.

"They'll probably have one big classroom where they learn everything faster and the computers will be more updated," Joey speculated.

It was Johnson, by showing fifth- and sixth-graders an "Encyclopedia Brown" movie -- about the exploits of a young amateur detective -- who sparked student interest in leaving their own legacy. Excited students tried to solve the mystery of the missing time capsule in the movie, then decided to create their own.

"It's been a lot of fun," Johnson said. "We will also include student predictions of what life will be like."

Students will have a chance to predict the future -- speculate on dress styles, for example -- and find a permanent space in time for themselves when the 2-foot wooden box is sealed on the last day of class before Christmas break in December.

Not only students are excited about the project. Residents near the school have sent in laminated copies of articles about the Benson-Hammond House, an old Linthicum family home that now serves as a historical museum.

And Johnson, who is spearheading the project, will deposit a photo of his family.

"I think back to 1940 and what I wouldn't give to have a time capsule of my class in Providence, R.I.," Johnson said. "This is such a stable community, 50 years from now some of our kids will still be around. Many of their parents and grandparents went to this school."

In the event of such progress as school renovation or relocation, Johnson has left strict instructions that the box must stay with the school.

In December, it will be bolted to the wall near the entrance to the school's media center, with instructions that it not be opened until December 2040.

By the time the box is opened, Johnson hopes, the next generation of students will be able to answer a few of his questions, such as "Did the Red Sox ever win the World Series?" and "Was a woman ever elected as president?"

Natasha is hoping that new cars will be built using solar energy -- to prevent incidents such as the ongoing skirmish in the Persian Gulf to protect oil reserves. But she would like to leave behind a more personal message.

"I'd like them to know that it was very beautiful here," she said.

Added Joey: "It's nice, but we have to do a lot of work to keep it," he said of the world. "You must keep the bay and the waters clean from pollution."

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