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


REGISTER for 2019 

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.


Americans Who Tell the Truth and MAMLE are excited to announce that the registration for the 2018-19 Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is now open! As we launch the fifth year of the Challenge, we are excited to know that middle school students across Maine will be tackling important issues and modeling for all of us what it means to be an engaged citizen.
What is the Samantha Smith Challenge?
The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is an American Who Tell the Truth (AWTT), MAMLE & Thomas College Initiative designed to build a bridge between the classroom and the world, teaching students to identify, study, and work to solve the challenges and problems they see around them in their communities. Participants will hear from past SSC participants and learn how to bring the Samantha Smith Challenge to their classrooms and help students use the curriculum to turn global concerns into positive action while connecting to standards.
This year’s focus
We are especially enthusiastic that this year’s SSC will focus on the different aspects of individual and group identities as students learn to become engaged, change-making citizens. We are asking SSC students to think first about their own identity, considering identities that, for the most part, are unchangeable — race, ethnicity, gender, age — and also those identities they can choose –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?
Then, as they look around, in their community or across the state, nation, and world, think about these identities and expectations affect others. How does this combination of identify and expectation connect to the justice and equity issues they see?
This year’s celebration
Mark your calendars for this year’s celebration which will be held on Monday, June 3, 2018. Besides having the opportunity to share important work on many social justice issues, there will be a great program that emphasizes how important youth activism is to our world.

As in past years, Robert Shetterly and I (Connie Carter) will be available to do workshops with your students. It is always a highlight to meet your students and experience their energy for their chosen issues.


We look forward to working with you and your students as you engage in the Fifth Samantha Smith Challenge!

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