Samantha Smith Challenge

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

2019 Updates

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Registration for 2020

The Samantha Smith Challenge inspired us to take action on these issues that have been going on for decades and inspired us to not be couch potatoes.” 
We are enthusiastic that this year’s SSC will continue its focus on the different aspects of individual and group identities as students learn to become change-making citizens. We are again asking SSC students to think first about their own identity, considering identity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, age, and also those identities that are easier to experiment with — beliefs, clothing styles, groups they join, issues they engage, etc. How do these characteristics affect expectations they have for themselves and expectations others have for them? How can knowing the characteristics of their own identity enhance their appreciation for the identities of others?

Then, as they look around, in their community or across the state, nation, and world, think about how these identities and expectations affect others. How does this combination of identity and expectation connect to the justice and equity issues they see? Finally, select issues of concern and become activists! All of the steps are provided in the SSC guidelines.

Mark your calendars for this year’s celebration which will be held on Monday, June 1, 2020. Besides having the opportunity to share important work on many social justice issues, there will be an inspirational program that emphasizes how important youth activism is to our world; and, once again, there will be the portrait unveiling of a young activist!

As in past years, Robert Shetterly and I are available to do workshops with your students.  It is always a highlight to meet your students and experience their energy and actions for their chosen issues.

Please go to the following link to register (remember you can register now even if you plan to introduce the project later in the year):

In December 1982, Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine, asked her mother if there was going to be a war.

She said, “I asked my 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.  My mom suggested, ‘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 rather than building armies. Sadly, in August 1985, both Samantha and her father were killed in a plane crash.

Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) has honored Samantha by including her in its portrait series.  The Maine Association of Middle Level Education (MAMLE) and Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) have joined as partners to continue to honor Samantha 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.



  • Work independently, in small groups, or as a class
  • Students who accepted the Samantha Smith Challenge
    Students who accepted the Samantha Smith Challenge

    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 and submit to Connie Carter (
image of King Middle School Students
King Middle School

Tips for Teachers & Students Accepting the Samantha Smith Challenge

  1. Start early!

  2. Have students identify issues in their community.

  3. Together, craft an essential or driving question with supporting questions. Check out and

  4. Create a STA (Standards, Targets, Assessment) chart or Journey Map that helps you visualize the process.

Samantha Smith Challenge Topic:

Driving Question:




Specific content standards: I can statements Summative:


      5. Work with other teachers to share ideas, resources and connections.

     6. Check out The Americans Who Tell the Truth website for a Teacher’s Guide:  Also the Buck Institute ( has a lot of useful resources for this type of learning.

Thank you to Connie Carter (AWTT), Catherine Paul (King MS, Lindsay Mahoney (Messalonskee MS) & Gert Nesin (Leonard MS) for contributing tips.

 Click here to go to the Americans Who Tell the Truth Website to register your students!

Maine's First Lady, Ann LePage, talks with participants
Maine’s First Lady, Ann LePage, talks with 2015 participants.


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