I teach at one of the schools which Samantha Smith attended.
Because of this, when I heard about this Samantha Smith Challenge (click to sign up your students) I was excited to learn more. As I explored further, I realized that for my students the challenge was an engaging real world application of many of the skills that they were trying to learn.
The Samantha Smith Challenge allows students to address key Common Core standards in research, informational reading and writing, argument reading and writing, speaking and listening. While addressing these standards my students who are immersed in their projects and excited to see them through. They felt that they were truly able to make a difference in their world.
This year I already have students who are set to dive into the challenge. Some want to continue the work that they began last year. Others, who did not participate last year but got to hear about the great projects, are interested in doing one of their own.
I know my time with my students will have been worthwhile if, at the end of our class, each child has grown as a citizen. I want my students to learn to be aware, empathetic, and active.
The Samantha Smith Challenge fits right into this approach. Last year Portland established Middle School Standards for social studies. Participating in the SSC helps me meet these standards in a very real way. Our students need to research a social studies topic using research questions, varied sources, and appropriate methods. The SSC is perfect for that! We also need students to analyze how to participate in and influence government. I can't imagine a better way to hit that standard. Finally, our students must make and present a simulated decision related to the classroom, community, state or beyond. Granted, students during the SSC don't analyze simulated decisions. Instead, they do the REAL THING!
In short, the Samantha Smith Challenge is an inspiring and practical way for teachers to hook students on citizenship while meeting our curricular requirements. I'm eager to talk with any teacher with questions. Connie Carter can put you in touch with me. With best wishes and appreciation for your nurturing of the next generation of change makers.
Robert Shetterly's portraits cut to the chase in a compelling way. Students could access the profound sentiments that these portraits represent. I hope this is just the beginning of raising students awareness about what it takes to be a courageous citizen and why it is particularly important for them at this time in history to rise to the challenge and make a positive difference in the world.
In January of 2012, Robert Shetterly was invited to spend a week at St. Edward's University as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows program. He was invited by the University's Kozmetsky Center of Excellence in Global Finance.
This is what the Director of the Kozmetsky Center, Dr. Elisa Díaz-Martínez, had to say about the visit.
"Robert interacted with approximately 300 people in a variety of forums including class visits, one-on-ones, a self-portrait workshop and a public lecture. The local PBS station, KLRU, followed him throughout the week and will air a short video on his visit soon. His visit was also part of Light/ The Holocaust Humanity Project led by Ballet Austin. As a highlight of his visit, the self-portrait workshop, which inspired many of our students and helped them reflect on future steps in their personal and professional lives.
Robert’s Americans Who Tell the Truth has become a distinctive and profound way of teaching American History and American Thought. In many European countries, his work would be an extraordinary tool for many courses on citizenship, human rights and ethics. His work will help us advance towards common understanding and tolerance. He is an engaging and dynamic speaker and loves interacting with college students.
St. Edward’s University has been privileged to host him." -- Dr. Elisa Díaz Martínez
During the 2013/2014 school year, teachers Karyn Field and Sharyn Hastings used the AWTT portraits and resources to help students analyze "themes related to scapegoating, intolerance and social strife." Students wrote poems, orchestrated press conferences, composed music, made collages, sculptures, and installations, all around the themes of engaged citizenship, as they thought about how to respond to injustice.
This is what teacher Karyn Field had to say about the experience:
"As an English teacher, I spend my year building understanding by having students analyze themes related to scapegoating, intolerance and social strife. I want the young adults I’m teaching to gain a true understanding of not only what happens during times of injustice, but most importantly, why these events are allowed to unfold. The utimate goal is to have students be able to identify the patterns of behavior that lead to these kinds of events in their own lives so they can help to prevent them in the future. Ending the year by studying Mr. Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth makes a profound impact on my students year after year and is an absolutely perfect way to bring true heroes and stories of courage to life. Mr. Shetterly’s work provides the opportunity for my students to learn about everyday people who stood up and made a real difference. I couldn’t ask for a more powerful way to end my year." -- Karyn Field
I am a special and regular educator in Madison, WI. My students used your images to discuss how some people choose to do amazing things with their lives: some in big ways, some in small ways, but always by finding something they believe in and for which they are willing to take a stand and work.
Students chose a person from your images and completed a biography project. Your images and related stories had a wonderful impact on these children! Best example: one girl chose Jane Addams Hull, then happened to notice while listening to the radio on the way to school that the Hull House in Chicago was closing. Current event, connected directly to that student's life. We had a "dinner party" with students sharing their biographies with each other as if they were the person they studied. It was fantastic to "see" Zinn sitting next to Chomsky sitting next to Mother Jones sitting next to Woody Guthrie...etc! We shared videos of various portions of speeches and songs, or pictures of places people lived or worked, during "musical interludes" while students changed seats in order to meet new people. (The following year the Zinn, Chomsky, and Debs students formed an independent reading group and read "A Young People's History of the United States" - during the school year and also throughout the summer! - the most fantastic teaching experience for me yet, and I credit it to you and this project!)
We took it one additional step. Students then created a book of their own modeled after your project. They used photos of themselves and had to write an essay about something they believed in enough for which to work for and take a stand. The ideas they came up with surprised and inspired me. It is by far one of the most meaningful class projects we've completed, in terms of getting students to focus on what is really important to them and their community.
Thank you so much for your work! I look forward to introducing students to your images every year.
Finally, I was shown people of all backgrounds who had made a difference; finally, I found people who were so normal, who I could relate to, and yet were so profound. Suddenly, there was no more excuse. In every portrait, I saw someone I knew: a sister, brother, a parent, a teacher, a friend -- I found all them in these portraits, and I saw something that each person I knew could become.