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Frozen in time
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 Heard-Mixon Elementary fifth-grade teachers Mary Horton and Sandi Newsham spent Friday morning before class digging up a year-old "pumpkin box."

A pumpkin box is a sort of time capsule, named after the first story Georgia students read in fifth grade as part of state curriculum - "The Pumpkin Box."

Horton explained the story follows characters Charlie and Billy as they dig for buried treasure in a vacant lot, and actually find a box covered with pumpkins containing a yo-yo, a book, three Buffalo nickels and a photograph.

Because the characters give away the items in the box and decide to share the photograph, three years ago Horton decided to have her students bury their own pumpkin box.

"It's just a neat way to start the year," Horton said.

Students pick an item near and dear to them - dolls, small stuffed animals, football trading cards and autographed baseballs - and write an addressed letter about why they chose it. This year students unearthed the box from last year, chose one item and wrote a thank you letter to the now sixth-grade student who buried it the year before.

Next year the students will receive thank you letters from the new Heard-Mixon fifth grade class.

"It really bonds the kids and gets them excited about all subjects," Horton said

She said the project combines many subjects because students read the story and talk about theme, write proper friendly letters, calculate the time the box has rested underground, discuss history through items such as Buffalo nickels and other dated material and explore the science of archeology.

Ten-year-old Sara Hodge decided to bury a doll she has had since she was four. She said Horton told her class giving up something they have had for a long time is like giving a piece of their self, and they should write about what their item has meant to them through the years.

"She wanted us to put something special in for the class next year," Hodge said, "and to learn how to share and stuff."

Shanila White, 10, chose a key chain from last year's items. She said it was special because the student had made it herself. Zachary Chambers, 10, also received something very personal - the golf ball that earned someone their first hole-in-one.

"It helps you figure out personalities of students before you and figure out how you can relate to them," Chambers said.

White agreed all the items divulged bits of the students' personalities. She chose to bury a real starfish she bought while on summer vacation in Florida.

"It was unique," White said. "Not many people put a real starfish in there and I thought it would be cool."

Chambers thought someone could learn from his item. He buried Costa Rican currency - colones - he had leftover from a spring break trip.

"It's important because it represents other countries and helps you figure out what they use and it has their presidents on it so it tells you about their democracy," Chambers said.

Horton and Newsham's message on the importance of sharing must have impressed 12-year-old Kelsie English.

"I knew some kids wouldn't bring something, so I brought seven extra farm animals," English said.

He added Newsham was his favorite teacher because she made reading fun. He said he enjoyed reading the story as well as what other people thought of their items.

Horton said she hopes to have buried enough items this year to have all the fifth-grade classes at Heard-Mixon participate next year.

"It really crosses all genres as far as character development and thinking about others rather than your self, and sharing and caring," Horton said, "and having a connection with the past and sharing the future."