Posts Tagged ‘Samantha Smith Challenge’

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MAEA Spring Conference

April 6, 2021

A HUGE SUCCESS

Congratulations to the Maine Art Education Association for a successful virtual conference held this past Saturday. Iva Damon was the chair who waited an entire year to complete her task. Last year the conference was canceled thanks to the pandemic. Every aspect of the conference entitled Perceptions 2021 went really well. If you’re working on the planning of a virtual conference or workshop I suggest you reach out to Iva who is an art teacher at Leavitt Area High School. Conference planner Extraordinaire!

The conference opened with a keynote provided by Natasha Mayers and Rob Shetterly. She often explores themes of peace and social justice. Recently the film on Natasha’s life as an artist was released called Natasha Mayers: an Un-Still Life. Natasha founded ARRT! (the Artists’ Rapid Response Team) in 2012, an artists’ collective that meets monthly, creating over 400 banners, props and yard signs for most of the progressive organizations in Maine. She co-founded and is editor-in-chief of The Maine Arts Journal: Union of Maine Visual Artists Quarterly. Learn more about how Natasha has contributed to so many meaningful projects and made a difference in Maine practicing her art in a collaborative way. You can read about her contributions since 1976 at THIS LINK. Conference participants had a chance to view the film before the conference.

“…an engaging and lively portrait of an engaged and lively artist who uses her talents in the service of truth and justice, rather than fortune”
— Edgar Allen Beem
Natasha Mayers

Artist Rob Shetterly founded Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) and has painted over 250 portraits of ‘truth tellers’. The Samantha Smith Project is part of the AWTT work where middle and high school students use art to build a bridge between the classroom and the world to create curious, courageous, and engaged citizens. SSC projects teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them.

One of the portraits that Rob has created is of Natasha so it was a delight to have them both share their stories and inspire art educators to make a difference in their classrooms.

Participants had a chance to attend three workshops throughout the day and meet with colleagues informally. The workshops were:

  • Evaluating Creativity with music educator Joe Cough
  • Update your Advocacy: New Ways of Promoting and Expanding Your Impact Beyond the Art Room with Brunswick Middle School teacher Cory Bucknam
  • Neurographic Art with Maranacook Community School art teacher Hope Lord
  • Teaching and Learning with Natasha Mayers: An Un-Still Life with Argy Nestor, Sweetland Middle School
  • AP Art and Design Network Discussion with high school art teachers Lori Spruce and Holly Houston
  • Hand-Build a Tour Up & Stamped Mug with Bioddeford Middle School art teacher Samara Yandell

The day ended with a gathering and door prizes presented. It was very clear that teachers missed seeing colleagues from other parts of the state and making art together. Comments around the challenges of the year and that the value of the art classroom became more clear to educators. Participants said what a great conference it was. More people attended the spring conference than has been the case in the last several years. The comment that placed clarity on our important roles as art educators this year was stated by Rangeley Lakes Regional School Art Teacher Sonja Johnson:

“The Art classroom is a place of awakening this year”.

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Samantha Smith Challenge

November 19, 2020

Guidelines available

The guidelines for Americans Who Tell the Truth‘s (AWTT) Samantha Smith Challenge are posted on the website (www.americanswhotellthetruth.org). Connie Carter, Education Director, from AWTT hopes that you and your students will take this opportunity to engage in this challenge as we work collectively to find creative and powerful ways to make our society stronger.

MISSION

The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is a dynamic educational program for Maine middle and high school students that uses art to to build a bridge between the classroom and the world to create curious, courageous, and engaged citizens. SSC projects teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them.  

Maine student, Peace Activist, 1972-1985

SSC 2020-2021: Show US Who You Are

As Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) reflects on the past year and looks forward to the months ahead, we are asking students this year to focus on one of three critical themes – racial equity, climate change, and health care. The SSC asks students to use their voices on one of these topics, take action, and Show US Who You Are. AWTT portrait subjects model how the beliefs, voices, and actions of youth can influence important social justice issues. Check out: 

Kelsey Juliana
Zyahna Bryant
Claudette Colvin
Becci Ingram
Rachel Corrie
Barbara Johns
LeAlan Jones
Nicole and Jonas Maines
Chloe Maxmin
and, of course, Samantha Smith

There is no deadline for registering unless you want to have a virtual visit Robert Shetterly and Connie. Please contact Connie Carter at connie@americanswhotellthetruth.org with question or if you’d like to connect with any of the living portrait subjects about your projects.  

A warm message from Connie: “Thank you all for being phenomenal educators in a time that demands so much.  Your students are very fortunate to have you!

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Samantha Smith Challenge

June 11, 2020

St. John’s Catholic School – Brunswick

Students working in the classroom before the pandemic

Like other education initiatives this year the Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) has been turned upside down a bit. The The planned Samantha Smith Day celebration to bring together participating students from throughout Maine was canceled for June 1. However, some schools have continued their projects working with their teachers remotely.

One such school is St. John’s Catholic School in Brunswick. The focus of Tiffany Jones 5th graders project is ‘disabilities’ and they have chosen to write and illustrate a children’s book. They are working with publisher Just Write Books based in Topsham. The book is about animals with disabilities, e.g. a moose who is blind, and how they come together to a place of acceptance and understanding. This project is a great example of using the arts to deliver an important message and of staying connected and not losing momentum in a time that has thrown us all a bit off course.

MISSION

Rob Shetterly

The Samantha Smith Challenge is a dynamic educational program for Maine middle school students designed to build a bridge between the classroom and the world and to create curious, courageous, and engaged citizens. SSC projects teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenge and problems they see around them.

The Samantha Smith Challenge is a program of Americans Who Tell the Truth. Artist Robert Shetterly is the founder and Connie Carter works with Rob to bring the program to classrooms across Maine. It is an amazing program!

THE STORY

They have 9 animals from the story in Life On The Farm:
  • Maddie Smith – Jewel the Peacock has Spina Bifida
  • Eliza Davis – Everly the Raccoon has diabetes
  • Maeve Coughlin – Nicole the Fox has Autism
  • Tessa Couture – Puff the Ostrich has Anxiety
  • Wyatt Papernik – Maverick the Moose has Blindness
  • Aurora Blier – Carrie the Cricket has Deafness
  • Ava O’Connell – Fluffernutter the Deer has Depression
  • Abbie Minzner – Buddy the Dog has ADHD
  • Mrs. Jones – Tom the Turkey has Asthma

The animals arrive at a farm where they don’t “fit in”. The story shows how they come together and enjoy playing… learning that it is ‘Best to fit in with the ones who Stand Out’:)

BOOK COVER

STUDENTS RESPONSE

Describe your animal character and something about them that is unique.

  • Jewel, the peacock,  has two different sides.One is competitive and daring and one is kind and loving
  • Nicole, the fox, is unique because she doesn’t care whether or not people know about her “disability”
  • Everley, the raccoon, is special, caring and creative, she cares about other animals and doesn’t let her                                           diabetes define who she is.

What was the most exciting part of this project?

  • The most exciting part of this project was knowing that we were actually publishing a book. Helping the world become a better place. I’ve always wanted to write a book or do something in the creative field. Being able to do this with my class is just an amazing experience I’ll carry throughout my entire life – Eliza Davis
  • Doing it with my friends and teacher. – Maddie  Smith
  • I think the most exciting part of this project was the fact that we could actually get this book published, which is amazing. – Maeve Coughlin
  • Maybe getting money from the book and giving it to charities.- Medal of Honor Recipient / Wyatt Papiernik
What skill or tidbit that you learned that you can take with you throughout your lifetime?
  • Well, something I learned was not really a skill, but I didn’t previously know about spina bifida.  I also learned how cooperative you have to be to write a book. – Maeve Coughlin
  • A skill that i learned that i’m certain i will take with me is the use of different words. Will writing Life on the Farm a lot of our writing sounded very repetitive. There’s so many words out there so we learned how to use them. Often I find writing just needs a variety of words to spice it up a little. – Eliza Davis
  • Being patient. – Maddie Smith
  • Be grateful and be respectful in life. – Medal of Honor Recipient / Wyatt Papiernik
If you were to write and illustrate your own book what might the title be?
  • Deep within. – Maddie Smith
  • If I were to write my own book it would most likely be a novel. I would call it a night on the train. A murder mystery story where each time they leave the carrige there numbers decline. – Eliza Davis
  • I would probably write a nature book, I don’t know exactly what I would name it though. – Maeve Coughlin
  • Learning about  Disabilities For Kids – Medal of Honor Recipient / Wyatt Papiernik 
FROM TIFFANY
“Nancy Randolph is the amazing Publicist. We are getting so so close to publishing!!  We have an ISBN number and may have a first published copy by June 8th!! YAHOOOOOOO!”
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Americans Who Tell the Truth

October 17, 2019

Samantha Smith Challenge

Americans Who Tell the Truth is excited to announce that the registration for the 2019-2020 Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is now open! As we launch the sixth year of the SSC, we 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.
The following quotation from a 2018-19 SSC student gives us hope for the future and makes us smile just a little:
“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 peace, ethnicity, gender, age, and also those identities that are easier to experiment with — beliefs, clothing styles, groups they join, issues that 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, nations, and world, think about these identities and expectations affect others. How does this combination of identity and expectation connecting t o 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 Connie Carter 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 THIS LINK to register (remember you can register now even if you plan to introduce the project later in the year):

Questions? Please contact Connie Carter at connie@americanswhotellthetruth.org.

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Caitlin Hunt’s Story

November 29, 2018

Samantha Smith Challenge

Thank you to Caitlin Hunt, Warsaw Middle School teacher, who shares an amazing story about her students participation in the Samantha Smith Challenge. Yesterday’s blog post provides an overview of Americans Who Tell the Truth and the Samantha Smith Challenge and how you can participate this year. This is a powerful statement that Caitlin shared from her experience of bringing art into her classroom: “Perhaps it is this empathy borne out of their art that helps them to better understand the true meaning of social justice.” Below is Caitlin’s, and her students, story in her own words…

Artist Robert Shetterly speaking to students

I have been a middle school teacher for 13 years, and I can honestly say that the Samantha Smith Challenge, (SSC) which my students and I participated in last year, provided some of the most important and exciting learning we have ever had in my class. SSC is a program of Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) established by artist Robert Shetterly. Many of the 70 students I taught in my 8th grade social studies class last year were not academically motivated and struggled just to complete assignments. Many of them required considerable support, and had completely lost interest in school. However, I noticed those who had become apathetic were constantly drawing during my class and I realized that art might be a motivator for my students. At that time, I had no idea that bringing the arts into my social studies classes would dramatically improve my students’ knowledge, their confidence, and their ability to empathize with people in situations much different than their own. And perhaps it is this empathy borne out of their art that helps them to better understand the true meaning of social justice.

Student created flyer for gallery opening

UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Together the students and I studied the United Nations document, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as our anchor text. After they developed an in depth understanding of the 30 basic human rights outlined by the document, they chose the one that was most meaningful to them. Each student was charged with researching current events around the world, to see if the human right which they chose was being denied anyone, or any groups of people around the world. They focused in on this particular event, and learned as much about it as possible. It was interesting to me how much the information they discovered shocked them. Many of them had no idea about the extent of these injustices. After my students showed a full understanding of the injustice, they designed and created works of art, and wrote artist statements, based on their understanding of the denial of this human right.

Art in the Lobby

We titled our project You Be The Judge: Justice Through Art. Our mission statement, the art work, news and images of the students’ work in gallery displays, and our thank-yous can be viewed on the website the students and I created after we finished the project.

AUTHENTIC WORK

The students knew their work would be shown in at least one gallery display. We were fortunate to be able to set up our week long gallery display in an old school house that we named that currently serves as an office building in our town of Pittsfield. We named it Lancy Street Gallery. The students became docents, showing community members around the gallery, and explaining individual pieces to anyone visiting. Their understanding of

Bailey Working

this authentic audience, along with their commitment to the issues they researched, helped them create and participate in quality work throughout the project. We all worked extremely hard to complete pieces, edit artist statements, hang the gallery display, and show the work. What was so different about this project was that the students were no longer struggling with motivation. They saw the importance in what they were doing. They understood that they could teach their fellow community members. Their work reached beyond the local gallery we created with showings at the Universalist Meeting House in Pittsfield, Waterfall Arts  “Young Artists’ Gallery Takeover” exhibition in Belfast, and Art in the Lobby at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.

Holocaust and Human Rights Center, Augusta

Along the way, as we were in the thick of the rigorous work it takes to pull off a project like this, it was connections to the real world outside the classroom walls that kept us going. We were able to visit the Holocaust and Human Rights Center in Augusta that, at the time, had an amazing exhibit called America Now… A Dialogue. We also visited the Portland Museum of Art where students participated in case studies to look into other works of art connected to social justice.

VISIT FROM ROBERT SHETTERLY

Universalist Meeting House

As a part of participating in the Samantha Smith Challenge, artist Robert Shetterly visited our school. His talks inspired many students to dive deeper into the current events they found. He challenged them to look at situations from multiple perspectives and he helped make connections between my students and some of the “courageous citizens” he painted. These experts shared their first hand knowledge with my students. It was so powerful for the kids to hear from people who work on the front lines of the issues they had become so passionate about.

DISTRICT REQUIREMENTS

Visit to Portland Museum of Art

Before we started the project I identified the district standard we would be addressing throughout, “researching, selecting, and presenting a position on a current social studies issue by proposing and revising research questions, and locating and selecting information from multiple and varied sources.” I used our district learning targets, to create a rubric for assessment. In order to meet standards, students had to do the following: 1. Summarize and interpret information found in varied sources and from fieldwork, experts, and interviews. 2. Distinguish between primary and secondary sources. 3. Evaluate and verify the credibility of the information found in print and non-print sources. 4. Make individual and collaborative decisions on matters related to social studies using relevant information and research and discussion skills. Of course, along the way we participated in mini-lessons geared towards each part of these learning targets as well.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS LEAD TO PRIDE

Jackson, Docent at Lancy Street Gallery

After completion of the entire project, I sat down one weekend to assess their work using the rubric I had created at the beginning. When I came back to school on Monday, I told the students how fun and exciting it was to assess their work. Authentic, real-world application of their knowledge had earned nearly all them 4s or “exceeds standards” on their work. I told them I felt like Oprah doling out 4s instead of cars, “You get a 4, and you get a 4, and you get a 4!” Although, as I write this, I realize how ironic the term “exceeds standards” is. It was always my expectation that students would apply their new found knowledge in a real world situation; that was the whole point of the project. If we set our expectations high, students will rise to meet them, and then we can all be proud of the work we accomplish. Perhaps one of the most difficult, yet important parts of teaching is finding a way to inspire students to rise to those expectations. The Samantha Smith Challenge helped provide that inspiration for my students.

Part of the exhibit at Waterfall Arts, Belfast

Lancy St. Gallery Pittsfield

Ruby Working

Lancy Street Gallery Pittsfield

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Samantha Smith Challenge

November 28, 2018

Americans Who Tell the Truth

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 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.

REGISTER and LEARN MORE

We look forward to working with you and your students as you engage in the Fifth Samantha Smith Challenge! Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Tomorrow’s blog post is provided by a teacher whose classroom participated in the Samantha Smith Challenge.
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Samantha Smith Challenge

June 16, 2018

300 students attend event

Thomas College was the location for the annual Samantha Smith Challenge where 300 middle school students gathered to share the artwork and civic engagement projects they’ve been doing. Artist Rob Shetterly’s latest subject of his portraits – Americans Who Tell the Truth Series was Kelsey Juliana. Kelsey is a 22 year old who has a landmark public trust case, Juliana v. US. She spoke with the students attending about civic engagement: “We have everything to gain from taking action and everything to lose from not.” Kelsey’s portrait was unveiled and added to the Americans Who Tell the Truth exhibit.

Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT), an organization that promotes civic engagement through its “Models of Courageous Citizenship”, a series of 240 portrait by Robert Shetterly, and the Maine Association for Middle Level Education (MAMLE) hosted the fourth annual Samantha Smith Challenge, an art, education, and civic engagement conference for Maine middle school students, at Thomas College on Monday, June 4.

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