Chloe Giampaolo poses June 20 next to the flagpole where a 50-year time capsule was buried in front of Montello Elementary School in Lewiston on May 29, 1987. She was a fourth-grade teacher when the capsule containing treasures from 23 of her students was buried. It will be dug up in 2037. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — It’s been 35 years since Chloe Giampaolo’s fourth grade class buried a time capsule in front of Montello Elementary School on East Avenue.

Thirty-five years that a 1987 Guinness Book of World Records, a map of Lewiston and Auburn, a photo album, several letters and more have been sealed away, lying in wait.

And there the capsule will stay for another 15 years until 2037, when the students and staff will dig up the ordinary treasures left to them by 23 fourth-graders in 1987.

In a ceremony recorded by her son, Giampaolo’s students stood one by one, reading their letter to the Montello students of 2037. The letter described simple aspects of their everyday lives: their style of clothes, their favorite foods, popular music and common school yard games.

But the letter dives deeper, giving voice to students’ fears, ones which remain remarkably similar to the concerns of today.

“Have you solved the problem of pollution?” the children asked. “The threat of nuclear war terrifies us,” they added. “We’re afraid that while we’re in school, there could be missiles flying over right now.”


“We’re afraid that our fathers or brothers will have to go back to war. We remember the people who went to Vietnam and never came back.”

The letter was written entirely by her students, Giampaolo said, and each item chosen with care. Her students called up businesses and knocked on doors to retrieve all the items needed for the capsule. One local funeral director donated the wooden coffin to protect the capsule, a metal cylinder no more than 3 feet tall.

“I never pushed anything on my kids,” she said. “I would discuss things with them and say you know that these are the possibilities of what we might be able to do, but I always left it up to my students to decide if they wanted to do it.”

At the end of the ceremony, each one in her class released letters tied to balloons into the sky.

“We have to understand our past as we go into the future, because it can help us make decisions. And I think these kids made a lot of good decisions,” Giampaolo said.


Inside and outside the classroom, Giampaolo is a remarkable woman. She holds a master’s degree from Morgan State University, a public historically black university, has written six books and has traveled to all seven continents.

An article about the time capsule buried at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston was published in the Lewiston Journal on May 29, 1987. Lewiston Journal file photo

No other school gave her the freedom and support to go beyond the established curriculum than the administrators at Monetello.

“I did the best teaching of my career right here in Lewiston at Montello Elementary,” she said.

While Montello’s time capsule may be the most enduring initiative from Giampaolo’s 30-year teaching career, it was by no means her only notable endeavor. In the half dozen years she taught at Montello during the 1980s, Giampaolo’s students made the news for a number of experiential learning projects.

In 1985, the entire fourth grade class at Montello participated in Maine Native American Day, an event organized by Giampaolo. Students learned about Maine indigenous culture and heritage from 15 youngsters and four adults of the Penobscot Nation who came to Montello for the day.

At the time, Giampaolo said she came up with the idea because she was “dissatisfied with the material on Maine Indians” while teaching her students Maine history, according to the Lewiston Journal.


Students help David Heller of the Traveling Teepee Museum erect an 18-foot tall teepee at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston in 1985. George Wardwell/Lewiston Journal file photo

“Our children grow up with so many stereotypes,” she shared in 1985. “The primary thrust of the program is unlearning stereotypes.”

One of her classes wrote about their three major fears — death, divorce and nuclear disaster — which was later published as a book by the Geiger brothers. She additionally partnered with Bates College in Lewiston to bring her students into the school’s science labs for hands-on learning about geology, biology, chemistry, astronomy and physics.

“When I could see a change in a student, not just, you know, what they were doing in terms of schoolwork, but even emotionally,” she said. “To look at the whole child and to see things change. To see a child move on from one way of thinking to another, that was very important to me.”

She left Montello in 1988 for a higher paying position in Maryland. But she soon left the profession for writing because her new school didn’t allow her to teach the way she had at Montello.

“Kids don’t come to school to learn how to take a test,” she said. “My kids (at Montello) used to look at the clock and say, ‘Oh, gee, three o’clock. We have to go home already.’ You know, they wanted to be there.”

“Tom Hood was the best principal I could have ever had, of all the different principals that I’ve had in my life,” she added. “He was very encouraging and very cooperative in so many ways.”


The time capsule buried in 1987 by Chloe Giampaolo’s fourth grade class at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston will be dug up in 2037. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

In 2037, few will remember Montello as it was in the 1980s. The students in Giampaolo’s fourth grade class will be 60 years old, plus or minus a year.

“I’ll be an old lady!” declared Danielle Smith. In 1987 she was 11 years old, according to The Lewiston Journal.

Although marked by a granite stone, Giampaolo sometimes worries the community will forget about the time capsule. While she likely won’t live see the day it’s unearthed, she hopes some of her former students will be around to celebrate their work.

“I’m very, very proud of them,” Giampaolo said. “I may never see them again. But, you know, they will always be close to my heart.”

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