The Samantha Smith Challenge
Educating Curious, Courageous, and Engaged Citizens
April 10, 2020 CIVID-19 NOTICE:
Due to school closings resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans Who Tell the Truth has decided to cancel this year’s Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration on June 1 at Thomas College. Although SSC participating schools will not have the opportunity to share their work face-to-face, AWTT will support those schools who choose to continue their work as Samantha Smith Challenge participants. We offer these schools virtual meetings with Robert Shetterly and Connie Carter, postings of their work/results on our website, and virtual connections to portrait subjects who may inform and inspire their work. Please contact Connie Carter for more information about any of these options (connie@americanswhotellthetruth). We are committed to supporting you in this very unique set of circumstances and are inspired by your attention to continuing to teach students in such meaningful and caring ways.
The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is a dynamic educational program for Maine middle school students designed to build a bridge between the classroom and the world and to create curious, courageous, and engaged citizens. SSC projects teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT THE SSC
Journal of Maine Education (2018) features the SSC in "The Synergy of Change: Children and Adults Inspiring Each Other," by Beth Schultz. "Imagine a classroom where children are solving real world problems, including those that stump and defy policy makers, politicians, and adults. ...In classrooms throughout Maine, students are selecting issues that resonate with them, engaging in research, becoming experts, identifying reasonable and sustainable solutions, and finally sharing these solutions with others."
"We were able to connect with two truth tellers this year. These interviews really made a huge difference for the students who were able to participate in them." (Teacher, 2019 SSC)
“This project changed our lives!” (Students, 2019 SSC)
The SSC is a program created by AWTT and designed to honor Samantha Smith by encouraging students to act in her spirit.
In December 1982, Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine, asked her mother “[Who] would start a war and why. She showed me a news magazine with a story about America and Russia, one that had a picture of the new Russian leader, Yuri Andropov, on the cover. We read it together. It seemed that the people in both Russia and America were worried that the other country would start a nuclear war. It all seemed so dumb to me. I had learned about the awful things that had happened during World War II, so I thought that nobody would ever want to have another war. I told Mom that she should write to Mr. Andropov to find out who was causing all the trouble. She said, ‘Why don't you write to him?’ So I did."
From that one question, a peace-making venture unfolded that brought Russian and American students together to build understanding and appreciation of one another and to focus on building connections instead of armies. Sadly, in August 1985, both Samantha and her father were killed in a plane crash.
The Samantha Smith Challenge encourages every Maine middle level student and classroom to start making a difference in the world today, just as Samantha Smith did nearly 40 years ago when she wrote a letter to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov asking him, “Please tell me how you are going to help to not have war.”
WHY ARTS EDUCATION?
“The arts provide an access point for everyone,” Caitlin Gordon, a...third grade teacher [reported]. “I think it allows children to learn about how the process of something is just as important, if not more important, than the product. I think it just really helps create more of that well-balanced, critical-thinking person that we want for our future.”
I teach at one of the schools which Samantha Smith attended. Because of this, when I heard about thisSamantha Smith Challenge (click to sign up your students)I was excited to learn more.
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 Challengefits right into this approach.
Robert Shetterly's portraits cut to the chase in a compelling way. Students could access the profound sentiments that these portraits represent.
Robert’s Americans Who Tell the Truth has become a distinctive and profound way of teaching American History and American Thought...His work will help us advance towards common understanding and tolerance.
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 conference
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.
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.
Teacher Guidelines: Includes resources, classroom activities, and a detailed step-by-step guide to participating in the SSC
- OCTOBER 1, 2019: SSC Guidelines Available - 5th Annual SSC Registration Opens
- OCTOBER 1, 2019- FEBRUARY 14, 2020: Complete “Get to Know AWTT” activity and submit SSC registration form.
- MARCH/APRIL 2020: SSC workshops/school visits.
- MAY 15, 2020: SSC project reports submitted to AWTT.
- JUNE 1, 2020: Sorry. SSC Day cancelled for this year. You will share your work virtually.