Samantha Smith Challenge

Do you remember when a group of Freeport elementary students took on fast food giant McDonalds and won? Concerned about the environmental impact of styrofoam packaging,  the students convinced Freeport’s town council to ban its use. McDonalds had to come up with another way to serve their hamburgers.   How about Katie Brown who at age 11 raised money to purchase protective vests for police dogs? And… did you know there are students all over the state participating in research projects related to the invasive European green crab?   Given the opportunity, our students will amaze us!

Samantha Smith-Used with permission from Americans Who Tell the Truth

Samantha Smith-Used with permission from Americans Who Tell the Truth

After the December break is a long stretch of instructional time in which to do something extraordinary. Join other middle grades teachers and students across Maine as they accept MAMLE’s and Americans Who Tell the Truth’s  Samantha Smith Challenge. Invite your students to amaze you and their school community by taking on a real life problem—local, state, national, or international—and work to come up with a viable solution or plan of action. Here is an excerpt from a recent news release:

The purpose of the Samantha Smith Engaged Student Challenge is to build a bridge between the classroom and the world and to show students that no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them in the world. Samantha’s journey began with her concern about nuclear war. A year later she was an eleven year old teaching adults and children about making peace. Her progress from concern to courageous engagement was a series of small steps and decisions—the kind of thing any of us can do!

Here is the link to the teacher’s page for the Challenge: http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/the-samantha-smith-challenge

Working to save clams from European green crab--Woolwich Central School

Working to save clams from European green crab–Woolwich Central School

Should you wonder how you could possibly fit in this type of project with all you have to do, consider Maine’s Guiding Principles:

Guiding Principles

Part of The Maine Learning Results: Parameters for Essential Instruction

The knowledge and skills described in the Maine Department of Education Regulation 132 support Maine students in achieving the goals established in Maine’s Guiding Principles. The Guiding Principles state that each Maine student must leave school as:

A. A clear and effective communicator who:

  • Demonstrates organized and purposeful communication in English and at least one other language
  • Uses evidence and logic appropriately in communication
  • Adjusts communication based on the audience
  • Uses a variety of modes of expression (spoken, written and visual and performing including the use of technology to create and share the expressions)

B. A self-directed and lifelong learner who: 

  • Freeport MS students share research projects with visitors from Sweden.

    Freeport MS students share research projects with visitors from Sweden.

    Recognizes the need for information and locates and evaluates resources

  • Applies knowledge to set goals and make informed decisions
  • Applies knowledge in new contexts
  • Demonstrates initiative and independence
  • Demonstrates flexibility including the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn
  • Demonstrates reliability and concern for quality
  • Uses interpersonal skills to learn and work with individuals from diverse backgrounds

C. A creative and practical problem solver who:

  • Observes and evaluates situations to define problems
  • Frames questions, makes predictions and designs data/information collection and analysis strategies
  • Identifies patterns, trends and relationships that apply to solutions
  • Generates a variety of solutions, builds a case for a best response and critically evaluates the effectiveness of the response
  • Sees opportunities, finds resources and seeks results
  • Uses information and technology to solve problems
  • Perseveres in challenging situations

D. A responsible and involved citizen who:

  • Students from Phippsburg keep their community informed about their local history.

    Students from Phippsburg keep their community informed about their local history.

    Participates positively in the community and designs creative solutions to meet human needs and wants

  • Accepts responsibility for personal decisions and actions
  • Demonstrates ethical behavior and the moral courage to sustain it
  • Understands and respects diversity
  • Displays global awareness and economic and civic literacy
  • Demonstrates awareness of personal and community health and wellness

E. An integrative and informed thinker who:

  • Gains and applies knowledge across disciplines and learning contexts and to real-life situations with and without technology
  • Evaluates and synthesizes information from multiple sources
  • Applies ideas across disciplines
  • Applies systems thinking to understand the interaction and influence of related parts on each other and on outcomes

The Samantha Smith Challenge fits the bill as a way for your students to work toward proficiency and meet the high standards of Maine’s Guiding Principles.

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About Jill Spencer

I taught middle school for many years, and now I consult with schools across the country and internationally in the areas of curriculum and instruction, including technology integration. Please also check out my blog about middle school teaming at http://teamingrocks.wordpress.com/. Other publications include: Teaming Rocks! Collaborate in Powerful Ways to Ensure Student Success Everyone’s Invited! Interactive Strategies That Engage Young Adolescents 10 Differentiation Strategies for Building Prior Knowledge
This entry was posted in Curriculum and Instruction, Engaged learning, Good teaching, Project learning and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Samantha Smith Challenge

  1. drerikbean says:

    The challenge is a great idea Jill! What a great tribute to these children who are so enthusiastic and contribute to their communities and a great role model to continue projects that have meaning and impact!

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