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Samantha Smith Challenge Showcase

Samantha Smith Challenge Showcase
Posted on 06/10/2015
SamanthaSmith Challenge

Earlier this month, students from Lyman Moore Middle School and King Middle School participated in the first annual Samantha Smith Challenge celebration in Augusta. They were among more than 500 Maine students who accepted the challenge from Americans Who Tell the Truth and the Maine Association for Middle Level Education to choose a problem in their community, state, country or the world that they would like to address and help solve.

Now, on Friday, June 12, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., the Moore students will hold a showcase at their school to display the information they presented at the State House earlier this month.

The first Monday in June is designated Samantha Smith Day in Maine. Samantha was an American schoolgirl and peace activist from Manchester, Maine, who became famous in the Cold War era after writing in 1982 to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, expressing her wish that the United States and the Soviet Union could get along and avoid nuclear war. The youthful ambassador for peace died in a plane crash in Auburn in 1985.

This year the first Samantha Smith Challenge celebration was held in the Hall of Flags at the Maine State House on June 1, Samantha Smith Day. The challenge was created by the Americans Who Tell the Truth organization in collaboration with the Maine Association for Middle Level Education to promote civic engagement. Maine artist Robert Shetterly is the founder of Americans Who Tell the Truth, which uses portraits he has painted and narratives to highlight citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental, and economic fairness. One of Shetterly’s portraits is of Samantha Smith.

All Moore students participated in the challenge. They selected topics they saw as problems, including police brutality, the minimum wage, college tuition, nuclear policy, immigration, and the Keystone Pipeline.

Teams of students did research, interviewed experts, and wrote problem statements using evidence to support claims that their topics were serious and widespread. They brainstormed policy alternatives to try to address the underlying issues, proposed the best policy solutions and captured their learning in tri-fold displays and Keynote slideshows.

Twenty-five Moore students represented the school at the State House in Augusta.  They  met with Maine's first lady, Maine's secretary of state and a variety of legislators. Shetterly was there to congratulate and encourage all the students, as was Samantha Smith's mother, Jane Smith.

Now the Moore students are inviting their parents, community members, local policy experts, teachers, school board and City Council members and other students to see all the displays in a science fair-style showcase at the June 12 event at the school, located at 171 Auburn Street.

Connie Carter, director of education programming at Americans Who Tell The Truth, will attend the showcase. She is bringing with her Shetterly's original portrait of Samantha Smith. Moore social studies teacher David Hilton said, “I hope to photograph every student smiling next to the portrait of a real Maine hero.”

Asked why  Samantha Smith was important, one Moore student, Corry Hemond, said, “She has shown kids that they can make a difference in the world.” Corry said she enjoyed the experience of going to Augusta. “It was cool to meet a lot of people that represent our state, including Mrs. LePage,” she said.

Another Moore student, Claire Sheehy, said, “Samantha Smith is important to me because she had the courage to ask questions.” She said the visit to Augusta was a positive experience. “I am really glad that most of the adults took us seriously and realized that you are never too young or old to help your community,” Claire said.