Case Study

Samantha Smith Challenge

In 2014, Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) honored Samantha with the Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) – a dynamic educational program for middle and high school students designed to build a bridge between the classroom and the world. This is an example of an SSC hosted at King Middle School.

King Middle School

The Samantha Smith Challenge project for King Middle School was Arts for Activism. The following questions guided the student’s work:

  • What is activism?
  • What have been significant moments or movements in activism? How have artists supported these movements?
  • Who are activists in our community?

Students watched a virtual performance about the journey of Migrant Youth, a story that helped them start thinking about performance as art, and storytelling as activism. Meeting with Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) artist Robert Shetterly, they learned how artists support and give voice to activists. They also met with local art activists and visited the Portland Museum of Art to help them create a chronological timeline and vocabulary word walls related to movements they studied. Finally, they put their knowledge into action by creating art about their chosen issue.

Arts for Activism

Students began the project by defining activism. They then examined their own identities and what activist movements they felt called to support — women’s, disability, LGBTQ, immigrants’ rights, racial justice, mental health. They created action plans, wrote speeches and letters, created protest posters and flyers. For their final project, each student created a t-shirt with a unique design and message and presented their research in their area of activism to an expert for feedback and suggestions about how to continue to act for change.

Help Immigration

“In my artwork, you can see a hand blocking people from coming into the U.S. Some of the important shapes are the people in the picture that are not allowed into the U.S. To me, immigration rights matter, and we need to let more people in and make them feel welcomed. The problem is too many people are being kept out of the country when they really need to come in because people suffer and they need help escaping their country.” – King Middle School Student

“When people see my t-shirt I hope that they will think deeper about how crucial immigrants have been (and still are) for the U.S. Without immigrants the U.S. would not exist! To help the immigration rights movement you should vote for laws that protect immigrants, and support and help immigrants in your community.”

King Middle School Student

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