Learning Through Engaged Citizenship

American Who Tell the Truth (AWWT) and the Maine Association for Middle Level Education (MAMLE) partner to sponsor the Samantha Smith Challenge each year.

Mt. Ararat & Poster


  • Work independently, in small groups, or as a class
  • Choose a problem in their community, state, country or the world that they would like to address and help solve
  • Turn the problem into a question they can research
  • Register the project with Americans Who Tell the Truth
  • Research the issues within their question
  • Develop a way to address the problem using what they have learned in their research
  • Identify stakeholder(s) interested or connected with the problem
  • Create a presentation to share with stakeholders that outlines the issues and offers a course of action
  • Encourage the stakeholder(s) to work with them to build support for the course of action
  • Take action!
  • Create a 3-minute video that summarizes their work
2015 Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration—Students Share Their Work
2015 Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration—Students Share Their Work


KingImportant information for teachers:

Guidelines 2015/16 KEY DATES

● OCTOBER 22­23, 2015: Launch 2nd Annual SSC at MAMLE Conference.

● JANUARY 15, 2016: School and class registration deadline for SSC.

● FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016: SSC workshops/school visits.

● APRIL 1, 2016: Teachers confirm student participation in Samantha Smith Day and submit issue and progress reports.

● MAY 1, 2016: SSC projects & videos are submitted to AWTT.

● JUNE 6, 2016: Samantha Smith Day celebration for SSC participants from around the state of Maine. Once you have read through this document, feel free to contact us for advice, guidance, contacts to help you explore your issues, or anything else that will make your experience richer, more rewarding, and educational.

Contact people:

CONNIE CARTER: connie@americanswhotellthetruth.org

ROBERT SHETTERLY: robert@americanswhotellthetruth.org

Wondering how to get started?

The Americans Who Tell the Truth website has an entire section devoted to the SSC that includes ideas for helping students understand the impact a single person or a small group can have on society, as well as to motivate them to accept the Challenge. Additional inspiration can be found in the blog post from last spring that highlighted the Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration in the Hall of Flags at the State House.

Messalonskee & Poster

Important links and information can also be found on MAMLE’s webpage in the Samantha Smith Challenge section. Last year over 700 students across the state of Maine participated. We would love to double or triple that number this year!  Building a bridge from your classroom to the world by encouraging your students to become citizen problem-solvers is a fine way to address Maine’s Guiding Principles:

  • A clear and effective communicator
  • A self-directed and lifelong learner
  • A creative and practical problem solver
  • A responsible and involved citizen
  • An integrative and informed thinker

Click on this link to go the AWWT webpage to learn more and to register for the Samantha Smith Challenge.


$500 Grant Opportunity for Maine Middle Grades!!!

Wow! The Natural Resources Council of Maine is offering a wonderful opportunity to middle grades schools and clubs in Maine

Kennebec River

Six $500 grants


 Protecting the Nature of Maine—Projects that educate and engage students in Maine’s environment and the value of protecting it

 Application deadline:

December 1, 2015

Contact person: Gabrielle Grunkemeyer, Grants Director at ggrunk@nrcm.org


Here are the specifics:

Project requirements:

  • Must take place in winter/spring 2016 and be completed by June 10, 2016.
  • Must write and submit 3 blog posts for NRCM website – describing project, progress, and outcome
  • Must be available to the press and/or provide press statements and photos for media to highlight the project**
  • Must give 1 final presentation to NRCM staff and board about project and what students learned

Application Process:

  • Complete and submit grant application by December 1, 2015.
  • Return to Gabrielle Grunkemeyer, Grants Director at ggrunk@nrcm.org
  • Applications will be evaluated by NRCM
  • Grant awards announced January 4, 2016
  • Grant checks dispersed by January 15, 2016

NRCM will evaluate your application on the following criteria:

Baxter21. Align with NRCM’s mission—Relevance to one of our four program areas:

  • Clean Air, Clean Energy
  • Healthy Waters
  • Woods,Wildlife, and Wilderness
  • Sustainability and Toxics

2. Defined activities, goal(s), and implementation plan, if relevant




Click on NRCM School Grant Guidelines and Application to download more information and the application.


Juvenile Bald EageIt seems to us at MAMLE that this grant opportunity opens the way for a spectacular learning  experience for your students when you combine it with the Samantha Smith Challenge.

Challenge your students to make a difference in their world!

Build a bridge between your classroom and the world to help your students understand that no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them in the world.

Time to Register! Making Middle School Memorable


Making Middle School Memorable

Engage, Excite, Empower

For more information about registration:



Mt. Ararat CrewWhat motivates us to work harder, be more innovative, and thus more effective in our schools?  According to Daniel Pink in his book Drive, there are three motivators that cut across cultures and professions—autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  The MAMLE Conference, Making Middle School Memorable: Engage, Excite, Empower, relates to all three of Pink’s motivators:

  • The concurrent sessions reflect the outstanding work educators do when they are given autonomy to develop approaches that engage, excite, and empower their students.
  • Attending the MAMLE conference provides an opportunity for middle grades educators to learn from one another and thus improve their mastery of working effectively with 10-14-year-olds.
  • Joining with middle grades educators from across our great state develops a sense of purpose that extends beyond preparing students for the next test or the next grade.  Rather, we join together to build a greater common purpose of  ensuring that all of our students thrive as they move through life.

John & JeffMaking Middle School Memorable: Engage, Excite, Empower will rejuvenate attendees’ commitment to teaching and learning with young adolescents.  Invariably, many will be inspired to adapt new ideas to their own situation back at school. Others will be driven to reflect on their own practice and work to make it more effective. The end result? More students will experience a learning environment that is engaging, exciting, and empowering.  Their middle school years will be memorable.

Each day of the conference will begin with a keynote related to our theme:

  • Thursday: Tom Burton—Magic and Motivation in the Middle
  • Friday: Maine author Phillip Hoose—If Adults Wouldn’t Do It, We Would: Stories of Youth Empowerment

Over the two days, we offer 30+ concurrent sessions.  That means there are over 900 possible combinations of sessions an attendee might put together! Every attendee will be able to customize the conference to fit their interests.

Here are just a few examples of how an attendee might personalize the conference offerings:

Sessions of high interest to….

School Leaders

  • Thursday’s keynote: Magic and Motivation in the Middle
  • Everyone’s a Leader
  • What Does Your Dash Stand For? Creating a Positive School Climate and Culture
  • Teaching the Verb: Meeting Standards Through project-Based learning
  • Leadership Roundtables
  • Family and Community Relationships
image of Mt. Ararat students
Mt. Ararat Middle School

Those seeking approaches that empower students and personalize learning

  • Friday’s keynote: If Adults Wouldn’t Do It, We Would: Stories of Youth Empowerment
  • Creating Curious, Curious, and Engaged Citizens
  • The Power of Stories
  • Spotlight on Integrated Curriculum
  • Group Challenges and Problem Solving
  • Teaching MCL: Putting Plans Into Practice
  • Voice and Choice
  • Port Clyde Fisheries Trail Map
  • Bringing the Samantha Smith Challenge to Your Classroom

Attendees wishing to deepen their understanding of effective literacy instruction in the middle grades

  • Let’s Unpack the Complex Text in Talking Walls: Discover Your World
  • Should You Paint Before You Write or Write Before You Paint?
  • Talking is Writing in the Air
  • Text Sets: Using 21st Century Schools to Teach MLR Standards
  • Using Meaningful Feedback to Foster a Growth Mindset

FullSizeRender 4Those who are new to the middle grades classroom

  • Teaming 101
  • So You Think You Know Middle School?
  • What’s New In the Wild World of Adolescent Brain Development Research?
  • Practical Strategies for Collecting Evidence
  • Everyone’s Invited: Interactive Strategies to Engage Students

Attendees looking to push their use of technology to the next level

  • Getting Started with Google Classroom’
  • Beyond the Basics of Google Classroom
  • Social Media in the Classroom
  • OMG! When Did They Do That? (MLTI)
  • iPads for Giving and Receiving Feedback
  • Getting Back to “It’s All About the Learning”

Join Us for Making Middle School Memorable: Engage, Excite, Empower

Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center, Northport, Maine

October 22-23, 2015

Conference Sponsor
Conference Sponsor

Back-to-School Shopping in Your Library’s Professional Resources Section!



Back-to-School shopping posts are all over Facebook. Yesterday, I saw one from a former colleague who was taking her daughter to get everything she needed for her first year of high school.  Today, another colleague gleefully reported she had scored two class sets of highlighters at a ridiculously low price at a local store.  I almost jumped in the car to go  get some when I remember that I don’t need class sets anymore. Despite the fact I won’t be going back to my own classroom this fall, I still look at the ads and think about how I would set up my room and how I would make the first week of school memorable.

Another Facebook post earlier this week reminded that there are gems hidden away in the professional sections of school libraries just waiting to be liberated by an adventurous teacher looking for inspiration.

A Treasure Trove of Resources for the Adventuresome Teacher
A Treasure Trove of Resources for the Adventuresome Teacher
Jim Trelease, an advocate or reading aloud to adolescents, published several resources for teachers.
Jim Trelease, an advocate or reading aloud to adolescents, published several resources for teachers.

The message in the image to the left is important, however, what caught my eye was the name, Jim Trelease. The post sent me scurrying to my bookshelves and there it was—Read All About It! Great Read-Aloud Stories, Poems, & Newspaper Pieces for Preteens and Teens. It’s still available on Amazon!

Some of the benefits of reading aloud to middle schoolers include:

• Building vocabulary

• Improving comprehension

• Building a literacy-rich culture in your classroom or on your team

• Introducing students to genre and authors they wouldn’t pick on their own.

In Read All About It!, Trelease includes themes such as Growing Pains, Fantastic Tales, Classics, Chilling Tales, Historical Fiction. and…anticipating the Common Core by 15 years…Nonfiction as Literature!  He provides a bit of background information and related titles.  Quick, go find your library’s copy and check it out for six weeks.  Keep it on your desk and you have a ready-made advisory activity, a lead-in to silent sustained reading, a hook for an upcoming lesson, or perhaps just a vehicle for sharing some enjoyable minutes with your students as you explore a fine piece of literature together.  Visit Trelease’s webpage: http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/

I began to wonder what other dusty copies might be just waiting to be rediscovered in the school library?  These topics and titles came to mind:

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 5.03.17 PMBuilding Community/Get-to-Know You Activities—Two classics from way back when whose activities have been adapted over the years:

The New Games Book was first published, gasp, in 1976! Raise your hand if you were even alive then! Here’s a portion of a review on Amazon. “This book is loaded with all sort of fun games to do as a group outside such as a family gathering, church picnic, camp activity, etc. The games involve a lot of human interaction and contact, allowing people to get to know each other better and laugh and exercise and communicate all in one activity.

I would recommend this book to anyone who just wants to do something besides the everyday get together. It really has a lot of very creative ideas for allowing more fun among a gathering of people. A lot of the games require a lot of cooperation and good sportsmanship among the players. It’s all in good fun. A great way to get to know each other better. The motto as the book subtitle indicates is, “Play Hard, Play Fair, Nobody Hurt!”

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 5.04.50 PMSilver Bullets: A Guide to Initiative Problems, Adventure Games, & Trust Activities is another resource for activities that help students come together and appreciate one another’s strengths.

The next time you are at school, do an archeological dig in your library’s stacks and see if you can unearth these still-relevant gems from an earlier time. They are packed with ideas to use as is or to adapt for your own situation.


Personalization, individualized learning, and differentiation.  These concepts each have some unique characteristics, but they all focus on creating a classroom where one-size-lesson-plans do not cut it. Organizing classroom routines, grading, and structuring learning environments in these ways can be quite daunting.  Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson, herself a former middle school teacher, has led the way in writing about classrooms that meet individual learning needs.  Check out one of her books for ideas that you can adapt to your particular situation.

Carol Ann Tomlinson titles
Carol Ann Tomlinson titles


MaineMaine Studies: In 1989 The Maine Literature Project published Maine Speaks: An Anthology of Maine Literature.  Its intended audience was middle and high school students, and its purpose was to provide Maine students access to the rich and varied literary heritage of our state. Authors and peoples represented include:

• The Wabanaki

• Edna St. Vincent Millay

• Sarah Orne Jewett

• The Passamaquoddy

• French immigrants

• Factory workers

• Fishing, farming, and lumbering families

• Marsden Hartley

Organized by the themes of Identity, Nature, Work, Communities, and Origins, these pieces are rich in history, voice, and texture—authentic pieces of Maine life for the 2015 classroom.

So…take a walk on the wild side and detach yourself from the digital world.  Visit the professional resources section of your school library and shop for free. You just might be surprised by what you find!




Only 81 Days Until…

MAMLE’s Annual Conference

Making Middle School Memorable

Engage, Excite, Empower

October 22-23, 2015

Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center


Who Will Engage, Excite, & Empower Conference Attendees!

Thursday — Tom Burton

Magic and Motivation in the Middle

Tom Burton
Tom Burton

Tom, Associate Superintendent of Princeton City Schools in Ohio, is an enthusiastic advocate for the young adolescent. A past president of the Ohio Middle Level Association and former middle school principal, he is well versed in what makes 10-15 years tick and how to reach them in meaningful ways in school. Tom possesses an energetic speaking style that immediately engages his listeners.

Tom has received numerous accolades including: NASSP/MetLife Ohio Middle School Principal of the Year, the Distinguished Young Alumni Award from Slippery Rock University,   Ohio Middle Level Association’s Ohio Educator of the Year and has been inducted in both the Cleveland Heights High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame and John Carroll University Athletic Hall of Fame.

Friday — Phillip Hoose

If Adults Wouldn’t Do It, We Would: Stories of Youth Empowerment

Phillip Hoose Photo credit: Gordon Chibroski, Portland Newspapers
Phillip Hoose
Photo credit: Gordon Chibroski, Portland Newspapers

Phil is the award-winning author of Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. This book recounts the true story of Claudette Colvin who refused to give her seat up on a bus and then courageously faced monumental criticism from a variety of sources. You can listen to Claudette and Phillip on NPR’s Radio Diaries.

Phil and his book Claudette Colvin have been honored with numerous awards:

  • National Book Award
  • Newbery Honor Book
  • Robert F. Sibert Award honor
  • ALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist
  • Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, Honor
  • ALA Best Book for Young Adults

His most recent book is The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club.

Plus, 30 + concurrent sessions led by Maine’s creative and talented middle level educators. Here’s just a sample of our offerings:

• Getting Started with Google Classroom

• Practical Strategies For Collecting Evidence Towards Standards

Americans who Tell the Truth• Using Meaningful Feedback to Foster a Growth Mindset

• #SocialMediaInTheClassroom

• Teaching MCL: Beyond the Theory

• Open Space Technology & Ed Camp

• What Does Your Dash Stand for? – Creating a Positive School Climate and Culture

• Should You Paint Before You Write or Write Before You Paint?

• Spotlight on Integrated Curriculum

• Teaching the Verb: Meeting Standards through Project-Based Teaching

• The Power of Stories

• Teaming 101: Ignite Your Team’s Fire and Keep It Burning

Conference Info
One of the many spectacular views from Point Lookout.
One of the many spectacular views from Point Lookout.



Bonny Eagle Writes Their Book!




Bonny Eagle Middle School was named an Apple Distinguished School earlier this year. As part of the application process they had to compile their qualifications in an iBook publication. Since the book was first published they have continued to refine the content, polishing it like a rosy apple until it was perfect.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 4.59.33 PM

The content paints a picture of a vibrant school focused on student learning. It includes information on the following topics:

  • Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 4.57.41 PMAthletics
  • Clubs and activities
  • Special Olympics
  • Supports for student learning
  • PBIS program
  • Restorative practices
  • Marzano Teaching Framework
  • Proficiency based learning
  • Allied Arts
  • Their library
  • Heath and wellness
  • Professional development

Principal Mick Roy, now Assistant Superintendent of SAD # 6, commented that the process  of writing the book was an extremely positive experience because so much reflection on their curriculum and program was involved.Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 4.56.44 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 4.56.12 PMThe book is free and can be downloaded from iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/bonny-eagle-middle-school/id1006792542?mt=11 

Creating an iBook is certainly an excellent way to demonstrate to the community the strengths and culture of a school.  The Bonny Eagle iBook is a model other schools might want to explore as a possible way to tell their unique story.



The Game is Afoot at Mt. Ararat MS!




Sherlock Holmes uttered the famous line, “The game is afoot.” in The Adventure of the Abbey Grange. “Games” is a concept everyone understands, and Team Androscoggin students from Mt. Ararat Middle School used it as a way to demonstrate their learning this spring.

Here’s a report on their Celebration of Learning from Nicole Karod, science teacher on Team Androscoggin:

On June 3rd, Androscoggin Team Students and Parents held a celebration of learning.  Our students have been working hard writing and publishing companion books to go with the book “The Other Side of the Sky” as well as creating and engineering board games around the topic of disease and the human body.  The work that these students have put in and the outcome they’ve accomplished is amazing.  In the afternoon students shared with their parents their hard work through an I-Spy challenge and playing board games.

The books were a reflection of a large unit on informational writing.  Social Studies themes were incorporated through the study of the book and students’ final product included many inserts about Afghanistan and the theme of the book.

Each game that was created was based around a disease that the students chose.  The games had to incorporate not only information about the disease but also be structured to relate to the disease and how it affects the human body.

Below is just a sample of our games and books from the event.

Students Hard at Work!
Students Hard at Work!
The Plague
The Plague
A Race to the Doctors! A game about strep throat
A Race to the Doctors!
A game about strep throat
Heart Attack!
Heart Attack!


Conference Sponsor
Conference Sponsor

Register for Annual Conference at 2014 Rates!

It’s the end of the year, but it is not too early to think about next fall!

One of the many spectacular views from Point Lookout.
One of the many spectacular views from Point Lookout.

The MAMLE Annual Conference is October 22 & 23, 2015 at Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center.

Register by June 30, 2015 and Save–Registration fees remain at 2014 rates until the end of June.

Call or Email MAMLE Executive Director Wally Alexander TODAY to save your spot–Send PO later.


Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 5.23.30 PM

Conference Sponsor
Conference Sponsor

Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration

The first Monday in June is designated Samantha Smith Day in Maine. This year the first annual Samantha Smith Challenge celebration was held in the Hall of Flags at the Maine State House on Samantha Smith Day. Over 500 students from across Maine accepted the challenge put forth by American 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.

King Middle School sets up their project.
King Middle School sets up their project.

The Hall of Flags began to pulse with energy as students poured into the room to set up their projects. Posterboards, trifolds, iPads, laptops, and oil paintings appeared and transformed the Hall into a showcase of student curiosity, hard work, research skills, and commitment to addressing troublesome issues. These students tackled a myriad of topics: underage drinking, animal abuse, poverty, homelessness, mental illness, cyberbullying, suicide, and harmful bacteria lurking right under our noses.


an image of student projects
Examples of projects
Students who accepted the Samantha Smith Challenge
Students who accepted the Samantha Smith Challenge


image of students talking to visiitors
Students explain what they learned and how they hope to address the issues.

A variety of distinguished visitors shared with students their stories related to becoming an active participant in addressing the problems of our communities–near and far.

image of Nancy Doda
MC Dr. Nancy Doda

Dr. Nancy Doda, 2014 MAMLE Annual Conference keynoter and Brazee Award honoree, guided the festivities and introduced the honored guests.

Jane Smith, the mother of Samantha, congratulated students and reflected upon her daughter’s legacy to the world.

image of jane Smith
Jane Smith, Samantha’s mother.

Former Maine legislator Elizabeth McTaggert introduced Senator Angus King who addressed the students via a video message.

Elizabeth McTaggert
Elizabeth McTaggert
image of Senator Angus King
Senator Angus King, Senator (I) from Maine

Maine’s First Lady Ann LePage chatted with students and helped put into context the world in which Samantha Smith lived–the Cold War era.

image of Ann Lepage and students
Ann Lepage chats with students from Lyman Moore Middle School.
image of Ann LePage
Ann LePage addresses the students who participated in the Samantha Smith Challenge.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap shared why his family moved to Maine during the Cold War and congratulated students for becoming involved with important issues in their community.

image of Maine's Secretary of State
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap
image of the audience
The Hall of Flags was packed!

Florence Reed, the founder of Sustainable Harvest International, shared how she was on a similar journey to the students to address real issues that affect communities and possibly the world at large.

image of Florence Reed
Florence Reed

The morning ended with each school receiving from Robert Shetterly of Americans Who Tell the Truth a poster of his painting of Samantha Smith.

image of King Middle School Students
King Middle School, Portland
image of Leonard Middle School Students
Leonard Middle School, Old Town/RSU 34
images of Lyman Moore students
Lyman Moore Middle School, Portland
image of Messalonskee students
Messalonskee Middle School, Oakland/RSU 18
image of Mt. Ararat students
Mt. Ararat Middle School, Topsham/SAD 75
image of students from Whittier MS
Poland Community School

The teachers were also honored and received a thundering round of applause from their students.

images of teachers involved
The Teachers


Lessons learned by participating in this type of project—quotes from the students. 

“I always have room to grow. I had thought about poverty as something very other than myself, something that didn’t really affect me. Turns out it’s not, and the kind of thinking I used to have was actually part of the problem because it prevented us from finding solutions.”  Leonard Middle School student

Doing suicide has been a tough challenge.  It’s been devastating reading each story and finding a solution.  Through the past couple of weeks on working on this, it’s been rough.” Lyman Moore Middle School student

“It was fun because it wasn’t “school work”; we got to go out in the community and change an issue that is affecting our area.”   Messalonskee Middle School student

“I learned that I didn’t give up after we had our first setback and two more after that.” York Middle School student

“Working on this project has made us come back to reality and realize that this is a bigger problem than we thought. It’s hard to believe that we have found over 110 cases of cyberbullying that end in suicide.  We were shocked by the large amount of teens (especially females) that have admitted to cyberbullying and/or being cyberbullied.  Cyberbullying is a huge epidemic of the modern day world. It has to stop now before we lose all sense of morality.”

Poland Community School students

Scholar-Leader Dinner

Last Thursday’s 16th Annual Scholar-Leader Dinner, sponsored by NELMS and MAMLE,  was a huge success once again.

5 Scholar-Leaders
All the way from Ft. Kent to celebrate!
All the way from Ft. Kent to celebrate!


Proud Families
Proud Families


MC Bill Zima, principal of Mt. Ararat MS
MC Bill Zima, principal of Mt. Ararat MS

The music was provided by the Mt. Ararat Middle School Jazz Band, Margie Landis conducting.  They were fabulous!

Mt. Ararat Jazz Band
Mt. Ararat Jazz Band
Part of the brass!
Part of the brass!
Margie Landis conducting
Margie Landis conducting

Families from all over the state came to Augusta to celebrate and honor these middle-level students.

Families enjoying the evening!
Families enjoying the evening!

Maine’s Secretary of State, Matthew Dunlap, congratulates the Scholar-Leaders.

Secretary of State, Matthew  Dunlap
Secretary of State, Matthew Dunlap

The evening’s keynote was delivered by Nicholas Parker, a freshman at Hampden Academy. He reminded the Scholar-Leaders to not only to set goals and work hard, but also take the time to live life with a capital L by experiencing everyday moments to their fullest.


Nicholas Parker
Nicholas Parker
Nick addresses the Scholar-Leader Dinner attendees.
Nick addresses the Scholar-Leader Dinner attendees.

You can listen to Nick on MAMLE’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Maine.MAMLE

See you next year!

Conference Sponsor
Conference Sponsor